Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Following Jesus

I had heard about Jesus from early childhood, at the knee of grandparents who were faithful and loving Mennonites. My grandmother especially felt a deep responsibility to make sure that her grandchildren, who lived in Quebec and across the country from her Saskatchewan, knew that Jesus loved them and wanted them to follow Him.

I knew about Jesus. I enjoyed the children’s Bibles and storybooks that Grandma sent. In fact, they became some of my best-loved childhood treasures. But I didn’t know Jesus. It took me years to realize that there was a difference between knowing about Jesus and actually knowing Him.

When I was 21, four months after marrying a man who had been raised in the church but who also didn’t know Jesus, I agreed to go to a Christian Women’s Meeting with my new mother-in-law. At the meeting, we listened to a woman talk about her life, and how she had struggled with the consequences of alcohol abuse, depression and relationship difficulties to the point of considering suicide. Her words interested me. It was the first time I had heard a Christian talk about experiences that I could relate to. She had begun to follow Jesus at the most hopeless time and place in her life, and His love had lifted her out of her despair in a way that touched me. Meeting Jesus, for her, didn’t necessarily involve a miraculous transformation of her circumstances, but it did result in possibly an even more miraculous change of her heart attitude towards her circumstances, her life and her self.

Near the end of the meeting, a drawing for gifts was held and I won a copy of a gospel tape that the speaker had recorded. She had sung several songs at the meeting, and had a lovely voice. I looked forward to listening to more when I got home. Gospel music had never held much attraction for me. I was interested in rock music, and some of the pop music that would come to represent the music of the 1980’s. Knowing the artist, though, gave the cassette tape some attraction, and her story lingered in my mind as I listened to the music for the first time. And the second time. And the third, fourth and fifth time.

There was one song in particular, “Hosanna”, which touched my heart and actually moved me to tears when I heard it. It spoke of what I would later learn was Jesus’ journey into Jerusalem shortly before His crucifixion. Chapter 11 of the gospel of Mark describes how Jesus came into the city riding a colt, and was met by an adoring crowd who spread their cloaks and palm branches on the road before Him as he moved through the streets. The crowds worshipped Him, shouting praises, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Hosanna is a Hebrew expression, meaning “Save’. The song lyrics spoke of the excitement, the joy of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. Every time I listened to the song, I felt myself being caught up in the sheer, unadulterated joy of Jesus being so close. In my mind, the song was sung from the perspective of a young girl who was running through the streets announcing that Jesus had arrived.

“Have you heard the story? The Christ is finally here!
He’s at the edge of the city.
Let’s run! I’ve just got to be near Him!
All the people are shouting,
They’ve come, just to see their King!
Tell the Daughter of Zion, rejoice,
For we’ve been redeemed!”

Something inside of me leapt for joy as I listened to these words. I wanted to be there. I wanted to run through the city. I wanted to see Him! Actually, wanted is too weak a word. I longed to be there. I could actually feel the excitement. Something inside of me was crying out with the crowds, “He’s coming! He’s coming! Jesus is coming!!” I felt as if He actually was coming. It wasn’t anything I questioned. I just felt it. Over and over again. The joy, the expectation, the hope. And then I wept. Because, after all, the song spoke of an event that had happened 2000 years before. He came back then. I had missed it. The very thought of it was beginning to break my heart. While everything inside of me was shouting, “I’ve just got to be near Him”, the reality of the events that were to follow Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was sinking in. He was put on trial. He was brutally beaten. He was crucified. Dead and buried. I had missed Him. Hadn’t I?

More tomorrow….

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