I remember years ago a close friend went through a very difficult season. She was crushed. Childhood injustices had pierced her soul and many trials had wounded her spirit. I had spoken to her often about the love of God and the need for Jesus. I loved her as a friend, but I knew I couldn’t save her. Only Jesus could do that.
I remember the feeling of helplessness on the day I said to her, “I know Jesus loves you. He cares what you’re going through,” to which she replied, “He doesn’t love me. He did this to me. If He cares so much, then why doesn’t He do something? Does He enjoy seeing me suffer?”
It broke my heart. Because I knew Jesus as The Suffering-Servant. The Sacrificial-Lamb. The Thorn-Wearer. The Cross-Bearer. Acquainted with grief. Despised by men. Crushed. Pierced. Betrayed. If ANYONE could understand her pain it wasn’t me. It was Jesus.
“He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being, fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” Isaiah 53:3-7
There is something about this passage that makes me weep. I can’t even watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ without sobbing. It’s so difficult for me to envision this One, who has my adoration and my devotion, bloody and beaten beyond recognition, body bared and hanging on a cross. Yet, before I can see Him as the risen Savior I have to see Him as the crucified Christ. And, truthfully, this is what makes me love Him so.
There was a time when I was indifferent to the suffering of Christ. Maybe because I didn’t want to think about it or maybe just because I took it all for granted…what Jesus did for me. It’s easier sometimes just to accept His grace without counting the cost. To accept His love without cleansing in the blood. To accept His mercy without reflecting in the holy.
One day I heard a song that changed my life. I had gone to the Holy Land with my family. I walked where Jesus walked. I touched what Jesus touched. I sailed where Jesus sailed. I strolled the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering or the Way of Sorrows. I looked upon the Place of the Skull and gazed into an empty tomb. Then, on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, I listened to a man with a beautiful voice sing The Stranger of Galilee. The sun was setting over the Judean hills, the water was calm, and there were fishermen fishing in the waters.
In fancy I stood by the shore one day, Of the beautiful murmuring sea;
I saw the great crowds as they thronged the way Of the Stranger of Galilee;
I saw how the man who was blind from birth, In a moment was made to see;
The lame was made whole by the matchless skill Of the Stranger of Galilee.
And I felt I could love Him forever So gracious and tender was He!
I claimed Him that day as my Savior, This Stranger of Galilee.
I’d been wrestling with God for too long, taking my salvation for granted, treating His sacrifice with indifference. In my own personal suffering and emotional pain, I’d allowed myself to grow cold. As I turned my back to the man with the beautiful voice, I looked out over the sea as the sun began its descent and I realized I’d made Jesus a Stranger in my own life. Instead of allowing Him to comfort me in my sorrows I’d tried to carry them on my own, thinking no one could ever understand what was going on in my heart. Yes, I have lost an eye. I am partially blind, but even worse than the physical blindness was the spiritual blindness that threatened to bind me forever in a sea of shame.
Jesus has this beautiful way of opening the eyes of the blind, of healing a wounded heart, and resurrecting a spirit that has been crushed. He understands humiliation because He was humiliated. He understands rejection because He was betrayed. He understands sorrow because He walked the way of suffering. He understands heavy burdens because He carried a cross. He understands physical pain because He was pierced through. He did it for me. For you.
And because I finally understood this, I knew I would love Him forever.
God gave me another chance with my friend and what a happy day it was when she came to understand this, too. Jesus, the Stranger of Galilee…The Saving-Servant. The Risen-Lamb. The Crown-Wearer. The Cross-Defeater…was no longer a Stranger in her life. He saved her. Just like I knew He would.
Come, ye who are driven and tempest-tossed, And His gracious salvation see;
He’ll quiet life’s storms with His “Peace, Be still!” This Stranger of Galilee;
He bids me go and the story tell- What He ever to you will be,
If only you let Him with you abide, This Stranger of Galilee.
Oh, my friend, won’t you love Him forever So gracious and tender is He!
Accept Him today as your Savior, This Stranger of Galilee. (Leila N. Morris, 1893)