This week I saw Jesus.
I experienced His presence so clearly on three different occasions, each time in the humble, mud brick, one room “home” of three different women. With flies landing on me, few or no windows to lighten the one room, and only a dirt floor beneath me, Jesus came to me in the midst of these women’s suffering.
First it was while visiting the home of a grandmother caring for her four month old granddaughter. The mother of the baby was another victim of unnecessary maternal death after childbirth. And now this baby had only her grandmother to welcome her into the world. I looked into the old woman’s eyes, surrounded by thick skin and deep wrinkles, I saw her beautiful smile, I saw the love and commitment that she had to care for her granddaughter and the baby’s two year old brother, and I immediately saw Jesus.
I saw the pain that he had endured when he was on earth. I saw the compassion that he had for others. I saw the wear and tear on her face and in her body and I knew Jesus had known the harshness of life that she knows so well. I saw the love in her heart and how she had sacrificed her life for others.
At the next visit, as soon as I entered into this woman’s small dark house, I sensed the light of Jesus shining brightly. There was a woman, who had been on death’s bed only weeks before, standing up. Her thin body, although remarkably improved still looked broken to me and reminded me of Jesus’s broken body. I saw her social status – a woman with “the virus” and I remembered the many times Jesus had touched the lives of women whom society had dismissed – I remembered how He had spoken to them with love and truth. I saw her victory over death – and I remembered the way that Jesus himself had overcome death and come back to life as the sign and guarantee of hope for what is to come.
In the third home, Jesus came to me while visiting a young woman, orphaned as a girl, tricked into prostitution, left with no one and no other options…. and then she found herself pregnant; alone, unloved, and without hope. But Jesus again entered into the story. He saw her, and His desire was for her to know His intimate love, His kindness, and His grace. Miraculously he led this girl to our doulas, who love Jesus with all their heart and soul and mind. And this great love they have for Jesus led them to take her into the safety of one of their homes, to care for her and her daughter, to nurture her, teach her and most importantly, to show her respect and love. As I sat there in this home, Jesus’s presence was so strong that I knew this woman who had never known what it felt like to be loved, would soon be wooed into the loving embrace of Jesus. Now, a week later, she has come out of the darkness and as Ruth appropriately named this woman’s three week baby girl, “Birhan (light)”, this woman has entered into the light of Jesus’ presence.
What do you think about when you think of Jesus?
I think of His entrance to this earth. God did not choose to send His son – who the Bible says, “through whom the world was made” – to be born into wealth, in a palace, with all the money and power the earth has to offer.
He instead desired that he be born in a stable, surrounded by flies and dirty animals, to a mother and father who had little earthly possessions and little social status.
When he grew up and began his ministry, Jesus announced he’d come to “Proclaim the good news.” What was this good news? In scripture, we are told that the good news is that “the kingdom of God is upon us.”
The kingdom of God has begun. What exactly does this mean?
God’s kingdom of love, of grace, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, peace it is not like other earthly kingdoms.
It is not spread by power and force.
No, it becomes stronger through suffering, through sacrifice and through love.
And it found victory when Jesus, the Son of God himself, was willing to be killed on a cross to become the sacrifice for all of the sin and evil and the curse of this world inside of us and around us. His love and sacrifice overcame sin and evil and even death itself, so that we can enter into Jesus’s kingdom and now be a part of building His kingdom here on earth, together with Jesus.
When I saw these women suffering this week, I saw Jesus.
I saw how he suffered, and how his way to eternal life – to life in the full (which is one way to translate eternal life) – is to walk through suffering with love and hope and faith in God the father. I remembered how he called us to stay strong in the suffering that he told us we would have in this world- and to find our strength in God’s promise that He sees us and He loves us and He is working out all things for the good of those who trust in Him.
When I think of Jesus, I think about a story Jesus told his followers. He told them that anytime they help those in need, they feed the hungry, visit the lonely and sick, and allow their hearts to hold the burdens of those around them and to respond to those burdens, that anytime we do these things, it is as though we are ministering to Christ himself. To Christ himself.
It is as though He is reminding us that He is present in suffering and that in that place, He will meet us and He will give us the love we need to be victorious even in the midst of our own suffering and the suffering of those around us. He will come to us, not as the kings of this world come, with wealth and boundaries set up for security.
No, instead he comes to us when we hold the hand of one who is dying; when we smile at the baby who has lost her mother; he comes to us when we look into the eyes of a prostitute with no condemnation but offer her the gift of love and grace and a way to leave that life behind – a gift that Jesus gives to each of us.
This week, when you see the suffering around you, think of Jesus.
Remember his suffering and remember that he sees you. And then remember that He has given you the offer of the gift of true, eternal life, life that grows out of His love for us.
When you see those suffering around you, remember how He calls us to minister to one another and that in doing so, it is as if we are ministering to God himself.