No one that met Jesus ever came away the same as they were before they met Him.
As I’ve continued on through my reading, which I must admit has slowed down to an almost uncomfortable pace (which I have every confidence is good for me albeit challenging to the core), I’ve noted more and more the reality of the fact that people came away from even the smallest interactions with Jesus changed in fundamental ways. In this fact, there are ample applications to you and me that I’ll get to momentarily.
It was during the course of this week’s reading through Matthew 10 – 13, and particularly in Matthew 11 where I had the chance to camp out on a thought in this regard. Verses 1 – 6 specifically note …
When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region. John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’
Needless to say, this is an incredibly rich passage and we can dive into it from a number of angles, but what push on me most this week is noted in verse 5 … “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life …” Throughout the Gospels and even the Epistles we read the actual stories of many (though clearly NOT all) of these encounters … and let’s get one thing super clear, they really happened. Let’s go beneath the surface for a couple seconds … blind people seeing … lame people walking … deaf people hearing … and on and on. Can there be any doubt that these people, people like you and me, were fundamentally different after meeting Jesus than before? There are a number of observations we can make about them … and for us …
First, they were changed forever. Being blind and then being able to see is a life-altering change and one that carries with it lifelong alteration. Being a leper, inherently a death sentence, and then being healed is by definition something upon which one can look as an eternal change. These were not temporal life improvements that would wear out over time. These were permanent conversions of the essence of one’s life.
Second, the changes altered the way these people lived. Being deaf, particularly in the first century, carried with it burdens that even today many wouldn’t need to confront. Immediately being able to hear, when one couldn’t perhaps for the entirety of their life, would have manifested itself in an entirely different manner of living. The same would be true of someone unable to walk. This wasn’t a day in which modern machinery would have allowed someone the use of wheelchairs, with handicap-accessible parking spaces, doors, bathrooms and the like. This was a primal change to the core of someone’s quality of life. Let’s not even note for the moment the way someone’s life would change when they were once dead and now weren’t. Seriously … imagine THAT!
Third, the encounters with Jesus that yielded these transformations the way these folks appeared to others. Imagine one moment talking about Billy the blind guy, who you’d known all your life and seen around town, only to encounter Billy the not-blind-anymore guy. Suffice to say, you would interact with and treat Billy quite differently. Not to mention someone formerly with leprosy. Such a person would have been confined to separate living arrangements so as not to potentially expose others to their disease. If they were in and among the rest of society, great lengths would have been taken to NEVER come into contact with them, not only for reasons of the law, but for reasons of health and wellness. Now consider that former leper healed, and mainstreamed with the rest of society, a close-knit society at that. It’s a mind-bending variation.
Finally, these people after such encounters would have been altered at the faith level. Could you imagine what this type of life change would do to your faith? Would any daily challenge or struggle cause you to waiver in the least? I mean, let’s face it … compared to the 180-degree about face for their life, could anything persist in one’s life that was unable to be overcome? That kind of faith, that type of confidence in a Savior, would outdo any possible hardship or struggle as all else would virtually pale in comparison.
The people who came into encounter with Jesus were not the same. And here’s the rub … neither are we. Those of us who call Him Lord and Savior have come into no less meaningful contact. I can say personally and wholeheartedly that when Helen and I accepted Christ on that December night in 1999, we were instantly changed. And like those that Jesus talks about … the blind who saw, the lame who walked, the deaf who heard, etc., we were changed in some fundamental ways.
We were changed forever. We’re told in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that our transformation in Christ is eternal when we accept Him. Our life is never to be the same. Ever.
The change we experienced has also altered the way we live. Metaphorically, we were once blind and now we see, deaf and now we hear, diseased and now we’re healed, and on and on. I wish I could say that I live different at the core more completely and more consistently, but the Bible never says we lose our humanness … so I’m stuck with those times when I blow it. But at the essence of who I am (and who Helen is, and – if you’ve accepted Christ’s offer of salvation – who you are) there are definitional differences.
We are changed in the way people see us. I can’t tell you how many times folks have pointed out who they notice I’ve changed. Again … I wish that was more consistent … but by and large, we appear and interact differently today than we did before coming to Christ. Lastly, our faith has been forever altered … to the very heart of our personhood.
We rely on Jesus for all … again, with sometimes varying degrees of fortitude, but knowing what He saved us from (mostly ourselves), there’s very little that can rattle us, very little we feel is insurmountable in the view of His power.
If you are a follower of Christ, know conclusively this is all true of you as well. The strength we can draw from these realities … these promises from God Himself … is impenetrable. Sometimes it just takes us going through the change to realize it. Sometimes it takes us noticing. Sometimes it takes people noticing us. Either way, just as the people in the first century encounters with Jesus were not the same after they met Him, neither are we. Let’s ask God this week in prayer to help us know this with certainty, with confidence.
Never the same,