Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Love That Provides
"In prosperity it's very easy to find a friend; in adversity, nothing is so difficult." - Epictetus
When James Cash Penney was a teenager, his minister father became the victim of church politics and was removed from his position. Penney left school and took a job to help support the family. After working in various stores, Penney was able to purchase a one-third interest in a dry goods store in Kemmerer, Wyoming, on April 14, 1902. From that humble beginning J. C. Penney would eventually preside over 1,700 stores. Because of his Christian values, he began to describe his chain as the Golden Rule Stores. When the Great Depression struck the country 1929, it came at a time of great financial vulnerability for Penney. He borrowed heavily. In addition, Penney was a major philanthropist, giving generously to organizations and individuals. The Depression prompted banks to request repayment of his loans sooner than anticipated. Suddenly cash flow was tight, and Penney found it difficult to meet payment schedules. Constant and unrelenting worry took its toll. "I was so harassed with worries that I couldn't sleep, and developed an extremely painful ailment." Penney checked himself into the Kellogg sanitarium at Battle Creek, Michigan "A rigid treatment was prescribed, but nothing helped," Penney said. He was attacked by the twin demons of hopelessness and despair. His very will rapidly eroded. "I got weaker day by day. I was broken nervously and physically, filled with despair, unable to see even a ray of hope. I had nothing to live for. I felt that I hadn't a friend left in the world, that even my family had turned against me." Alarmed by his rapidly deteriorating condition, Dr. Eggleston gave Penney a sedative. However, the effect quickly wore off, and Penney awakened with the conviction that he was living the last night of his life. "Getting out of bed, I wrote farewell letters to my wife and to my son, saying that I did not expect to live to see the dawn." Penney awakened the next morning, surprised to find himself alive. Making his way down the hallway of the hospital, he could hear singing coming from the little chapel where devotional exercises were held each morning. The words of the hymn he heard being sung spoke deeply to his condition. Going into the chapel, he listened with a weary heart to the singing, the reading of the Scripture lesson, and the prayer. "Suddenly something happened," he recalled. "I can't explain it. I can only call it a miracle. I felt as if I had been instantly lifted out of the darkness of a dungeon into a warm, brilliant sunlight. I felt as if I had been transported from hell to Paradise. I felt the power of God as I had never felt it before." In a life-transforming instant, Penney knew that God, with His love, was there to help. "From that day to this, my life has been free from worry," he declared. "The most dramatic and glorious 20 minutes of my life were those I spent in that chapel that morning." The words from the hymn that spoke so eloquently and miraculously to J. C. Penney were "God will take care of you."
The same God who provided help to J. C. Penny, helped Mary and John. “Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, His mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, He said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.” Jesus was on the cross, condemned, rejected, betrayed, abandoned by most people He ministered to and cared for. Thankfully, a few friends and His mother stayed near the cross to support Him. Jesus looked at His mother with compassion and addressed her and John’s need. He commended them to each other for mutual care. Here Jesus gives us an example of love and caring. He was indeed a man who lived for the wellbeing of others even while He suffered.
Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified with a sign to be attached to the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews," in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. The chief priests insisted that Pilate shouldn't call Jesus the King of the Jews. Pilate replied, "What I have written, I have written.” Pilate might have making fun of Jesus, but it was the truth of God. In this passage we also meet those who played different roles.
Those who opposed Jesus and who sought his death. His crime? He claimed to be the son of God. (John 19:7). The enemies of Jesus, the chief high priest and the other officials got their wish when they convinced the Roman governor Pilate to order Jesus’ crucifixion.
There were also those who came to support him in his most difficult time. They willingly identified with Him despite of the risk to their own lives. Their names? Mary, the mother of Jesus; Mary's sister; Mary the wife of Clopas; Mary Magdalene; and John the Beloved. The crowd Jesus healed fed and taught now chanted, "Crucify him, crucify him," acting like mad people. The disciples Jesus loved and fed and taught, after three and a half years investing His life and energy, they left Him and went into hiding to save their own lives. How would you feel if you were betrayed and rejected?
The most beautiful statement regarding relationships in this passage is verse 25 where those who supported him stood near him on the cross. These courageous, daring and loyal women and John were there to show Jesus how much they loved Him. What a contrast in human behavior: loyalty and betrayal. Jesus heard his enemies shouting, "Crucify Him." Yet these who loved Him were standing close. Silently, they were there; “We love You,” was the message.
What can we learn from these faithful people? That their love for Jesus was stronger than the fear of death. That they loved Jesus because He first loved and served them. They showed their loyalty to Him. That as they loved Jesus we ought to love Him. That the love of the mother and the love of the Son, Mary and Jesus, are our best examples. Mary knew from day one, when she was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus that Jesus was special and his mission was set by God. Mary knew that Jesus' life was given for the sake of others. She must have known as the Son of God, He couldn't marry and have a grandchild for her to hold, but that didn’t stop her from loving Him and supporting Him in his hour of sorrow! Mary was with Jesus at the beginning of His public ministry as an honored guest at the wedding of Cana (John 2) when He turned the water into wine. Mary was with her Son at the end of his public ministry, not as an honored guest but in support for her Son, crucified on the cross as a criminal. She had to be there. She was a mother; that's what loving mothers do. They sacrifice for their children, no matter what the cost might it be. Jesus dying on the cross shows us that adversity is not an excuse to stop caring for those we love. Jesus had a trustworthy friend to ask for help for His mother, because Jesus loved John and invested in him, John gladly responded to Jesus request. We also would be wise to invest in friendship while we are able, so that we are not alone when we are in need! "A friend in need is a friend in deed."
"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)." We can trust Jesus to care for us, because He proved His love for us by dying on the cross!
Pastor Shim Habte, Willows UMC, Willows, CA 95988,