I recently heard a Christian brother ask this same question at a storytelling festival. Have you ever thought about the phrase, “…and Jesus stretched out His hand?” Truthfully, I had not.
But since I am a visual learner, I had mentally painted numerous pictures of Him at the Bethesda pool inviting a crippled man to his feet. On another occasion Jesus reached up from the mud toward a blind man’s eyes and restored his sight. He also gently touched an unconscious girl and commanded her to awaken from her lifeless coma. There were loaves and fish to serve, bread to break, and wine to pour. He used His rough carpenter hands to touch people’s lives. Every time Jesus extended His open hand, He invited their response.
“Do you want to be well?” He asked.
Many accepted His invitation. All who responded received healing, deliverance, and forgiveness!
Today when people say “yes” to an invitation, they know it’s frequently an offer to come or go somewhere pleasurable and hospitable. William has been singing a short chorus lately that goes like this,
“Father, glorify Yourself,
Father, glorify Yourself,
Father, glorify Yourself in me.
Whether pleasure or in pain,
o’er my life I give You reign,
Father, glorify Yourself in me.”
It wasn’t until Bill recently asked me about “suffering” that I recognized the fullness of Jesus’ invitation when He extended His hand to me. It was far from hospitable and pleasurable.
We all have our perspectives about the sufferings of Jesus. Usually people automatically think of His crucifixion and the natural pain of scourging and the horror of being nailed to a cross. He thirsted for water but was given gall on a sponge. It’s said that in order to breathe, He used His spiked feet to leverage His body up enough to inhale.
These examples can hardly describe the depth of His physical agonies. Consider the emotional and mental anguish that terrorized Him in advance. So much so, that He sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. What about the incessant mocking? False accusations and a close friend’s betrayal? The judicial interrogations, the disciple’s abandonment and His own family’s unbelief? What about His Father who rejected Him because God couldn’t bear to look at sin? Our sin….my sin.
Your afflictions may be a terminal diagnosis, chronic physical pain; a lawsuit, office politics or slander in social media; the death of a loved one, a separation, divorce or the absence of a friend when you need them most. Many personal distresses in life are the crimes others commit against us and dealing with the consequences is an ongoing reality. In my past, I found it difficult to admit the crimes against me were self-inflicted wounds from the poor choices I had made. More evil was an enemy that continually assaulted me with temptations to unbelief that God or anyone, for that matter, really cared.
My life genuinely changed when I discovered an authentic fellowship with the person of Jesus. Now I understand, if only in part. The fullness of accepting His outstretched hand does include suffering. More importantly, responding consistently in faith, trusting and obeying, no matter the circumstances or outcome, matures and sustains my relationship with the Lover of my soul. This is the marvelous mystery of a life in Christ and Christ in me. A well of Living water that I’m invited to drink from and I "get to" pour out to others.
His invitation isn’t just about the fellowship of His suffering. His outstretched hand provides an opportunity for becoming “partakers” in a community of victorious overcomers. My life changed when I gave myself to a community of like-minded Jesus Becomers who are loving me to wholeness. From Revelation 3:21:
“He who overcomes (is victorious), I will grant him to sit beside Me on My throne, as I Myself overcame (was victorious) and sat down beside My Father on His throne.”
“Have you ever considered the times when Jesus stretched out His hand to you?” He waits with open ears that hear your every prayer. He waits with open eyes that see every tear. He waits with an open heart that feels your every wound. He longs to grasp your life with the mighty grip of His outstretched hand.
“Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through Him.”
With an outstretched hand, He is waiting for you.... to choose.
How will you respond to His invitation?