Answering The Call is an international missions organization dedicated to reaching people in difficult to reach places.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

An Encounter With Jesus Always Produces A Response

Scripture tells a story that has caught my attention on more than one occasion. It is the story of a rich young ruler. What grabs me in this story is the response of this seeker of eternal life after his encounter with Jesus. We are told he leaves the presence of Jesus as a sad man. It is the only such recorded response to Jesus in the New Testament. When I read this I wonder if he stayed sad. If he stayed sad, what fruit did this produce in the years he had left? I don’t suppose Jesus was finished with him. It is possible that in a further encounter the result was different.

In a recent trip to the Middle East and a busy market place of an ancient city there is another recording of an encounter with Jesus. This recording plays only in heaven. This encounter left a rich young conservative Muslim angry. As we walked through crowded streets of the open air markets in a fairly large city, we were accompanied by an acquaintenance who was a resident of that city. He seemed glad to see us although I was not totally sure of his motivation. I know him to be a devout Muslim. I have watched him read the Koran with fervor and then kiss it with all sincerity as he placed it securely away in a special place.

On this particular day as we walked, he moved a bit gingerly favoring his right shoulder. He explained to me that he could not move his arm and that his shoulder caused him a great deal of discomfort. I began to think, “I bet if Jesus were here, he would heal him.” I remembered how often Jesus used such encounters as a statement that His kingdom had come. I immediately realized that Jesus was still here and asked our acquaintance if he would like for us to pray for him so that his shoulder would be healed.

I was surprised to hear him quickly respond in the affirmative. I suggested that when we got back to a quieter place we would pray. This, to my surprise, did not satisfy him. He wanted us to pray right now, right then, in the crowded and busy street. (I might mention at this point that public prayer to Jesus is not a common phenomenon in this particular city.) We quickly agreed and without making a spectacle of ourselves we prayed for him as we waited for a cab. It was just a simple prayer like we used to pray in the Baptist Royal Ambassadors on Wednesday nights. Nothing spectacular happened. He received it and we went back to our hotel.

I saw him the next day and asked him about his shoulder. He said that it was a little better but that it still hurt. I told him we would keep praying. I did not see him until 3 days later. I asked again about his shoulder. This time he was all smiles and happy to report that the shoulder was healed. He said he had gone to the doctor and they had given him medicine. He decided not to take the medicine as a test. He showed us the freedom of movement he now had. We all spent a few minutes celebrating with him.

In a quiet moment I spoke to him privately. I wanted him to know that the power that healed him was not in the prayers but in God alone. He responded quickly to this, “yes, praise be to Allah.” I reminded him, “No, you will remember that when we prayed we prayed in the named of Jesus. It was Jesus who healed your shoulder.” His response was immediate and intense anger. He spoke to me no more for the remainder of my time in that place. I wonder, when he lays his head down at night now pain free, how he reconciles that it is Jesus who gives him sleep without pain. Even God’s blessing is sometimes difficult to receive. Have you ever noticed that?

I take three lessons from all this:

Jesus, like he always did, still works in the crowds and in the confusion of life. This is true for you and me. We don’t always get to see what He does. The truth is our ego probably could not handle it. An encounter with Him will always produce a response, even if it isn’t the one expected. You cannot leave His presence unchanged.

I wonder about my friend in this Middle Eastern country. Do you suppose he will spend the rest of his life angry? Do you think Jesus is finished with him now or is this just the first of many future encounters?

I am glad he is not finished with me.