Mark 9:24b - "I believe; help my unbelief!"
One of the facts that stands out in bold relief as we meditate upon the suffering and death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world is the utter failure of His disciples either to understand His mission or to stand by Him in His time of need.
Moreover, when it came time for the "final exam," our Lord's disciples all "forsook Him and fled" (see Matthew 26:47-56). Next to the outright betrayal of the Christ by Judas Iscariot, there was the cowardly denial by Simon Peter. Insisting three times that he was not a disciple, Peter added with an oath that he did not even know the Master! Reprehensible as that act was, it was overshadowed by the loving manner in which Jesus, after His resurrection, forgave Peter, reassured him of His love, and bestowed on this erstwhile deserter the challenging commission: "Feed My sheep" (see John 21:17).
The implication of Christ's willingness to rehabilitate Peter, to give him another chance, speaks loudly to you and me -- to all of us sinners today. None of us need fear, as Judas probably did, that our sins are too great to be forgiven. The acceptance by Jesus of the last-minute conversion of one of the malefactors on Calvary is a potent reminder to each of us that no sin of ours -- no matter how cowardly, heinous, and wicked -- can deprive repentant sinners of God's forgiving love and grace.
In fact, as we contemplate the entire life of Christ as chronicled in the Gospel narrative of the New Testament, it becomes abundantly apparent that Jesus Christ was not averse to ministering to people who lived "on the other side of the tracks."
There was Zacchaeus, the cheating tax collector, whom Jesus singled out from the crowd; Levi, another publican, who became Matthew, the evangelist; Mary Magdalene, who was demon possessed but became a believer and such a staunch supporter of her Savior, that she was singled out to greet her Master on the morn of His resurrection.
Only the overwhelming love of our Heavenly Father and the loving obedience of His holy, His only, His sinless Son can explain the fact there is hope, eternal hope, for every member of the human race. If a Saul of Tarsus, a Christ-hating Pharisee, could become the apostle Paul; if Charles Colson, "hatchet man" of the Watergate crowd, could become the founder of a much-needed Christian ministry to prisoners called "Prison Fellowship"; if William Murray, son of the self-styled "No. 1 atheist," Madalyn Murray O'Hair, could become a Christian and head up a Christian evangelism crusade known as "Faith Foundation," there should be no doubt in the minds of any of us that "He (the Lord) is able to save for all time whose who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).
There is forgiveness, full, free, and final, for you and me, no matter who we are or what we have done!
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, in You is the salvation for which we long. While our past may condemn us, remind us that Your sacrifice is sufficient for any sin we have committed. Empower our faith with certainty and love for others. In Your Name we pray. Amen.
From The Lutheran Layman, April 1984 issue, "Hopeless Failures?" by John Christian
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