FERGUSON, DURER, JESUS & A NAZI OFFICER WITH A RIDING- CROP

Imagine this foreigner daring to approach this Jewish Messiah (Matthew 15:21-28).
How do we explain the broad spectrum of people that dared—facing one obstacle or another—to approach and speak to Jesus? A commander in the conqueror’s army. A woman in public, part of a hostile people and religion a member of the Jewish Supreme Court or this Sidonian (Greek) woman with a severely troubled child. All of them experiencing great turmoil and trouble and yet all believing they could speak to him. There was some rivalry between the disciples of John and Jesus and yet when John is killed his disciples “go and tell Jesus.” What was it about him that led the high and low to feel they could speak to him?

It’s said of Albert Dürer that he sharpened the wit and talent of all he met. He brought the best out in them. You’ve met people I hope who made you feel you had something worth saying, an opinion worthy of a hearing or an insight that added something to the matter under consideration. Don’t you love such people? The way they carry themselves, the way they treat people; the very way they look at people as they listen to them—all of that makes us dare to speak to them. They bring it out of us in part because they build no walls of self-importance around themselves. They bring it out of us because they seem to make themselves available to us, as though they leaned over to us in a crowd and asked us, “And what do you think about all that?” And then they listened with sincere interest.

Though I never had the privilege of being around him much I always experienced that sense of things in the company of Everett Ferguson, a noted Church Historian. In his field he is truly light years ahead of the rest of us, being a profoundly learned scholar, but I always believed he listened to us as though he believed our opinions were worth expressing and worth hearing. There was no pretense on his part, no feigned humility; just a gracious openness to others. There’s something immensely liberating in that and we thank God for such people.

This Sidonian-Greek woman had heard of Israel’s Messiah, the son of David, and the stories she heard about Him were such that she followed Him and his group calling out to Him for pity and help. Do you suppose that would have happened to Hitler or Stalin? (I’ll never forget if I live to be 900 seeing, in a documentary, Jews arriving (I think) in the death-camps when a woman (maybe in her fifties) approached a Nazi officer to ask if she could remain with her aged and feeble father rather than be separated. He turned, looked at her for a second or two and ferociously lashed her across the face with the riding-crop he was carrying. The pain must have been excruciating but it was the look on her face that stuck with me—a look of astonished and frightened protest as if she had said, “Please, I was only asking if……”

“And what made you so daring that you just kept following Jesus and his company, and calling over and over again? Why would you not be intimidated into silence?” Someone that didn’t really know Jesus might have asked her that. She probably would have said. “It was the stories I heard about Him. They all had a number of things in common and one of them was that He really liked people like me and wanted to help them.”

God’s blessing on those that help to free us from crushing shyness or a crippling sense of unworthiness. God bless all those that make us believe our concerns matter to them or that our words are welcome even if we know we aren’t in their league or that we don’t have a lot to offer. In this they image the Lord Jesus and He images God and that’s what keeps vibrant hope and assurance alive and the Story worth telling everywhere we go and everywhere we get the chance.

Wondrous Father & wondrous Son and wondrous men and women, boys and girls who confront us with them.

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