The Comfort and Challenge of Jesus

“Comfort! Comfort!” These are the words announcing Christmas, the coming of the long-promised Messiah in Isaiah 40.

Isaiah declares immediately after that every mountain needs to be leveled and every valley filled in. The coming of God brings comfort, but it also presents a challenge. Our lives will have to adjust to fit the new reign of God.

It’s not surprising, then, that when we meet Jesus in the Gospels that we find a person who brings amazing comfort but who also presents significant challenges.

He is His own person, has His own goals, is willing to challenge people at almost any time, and is unwilling to get caught up in the torrent of our emotions. But He also stays connected; welcomes everybody; and provides help, blessing, and comfort beyond our wildest expectation.

The account of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4 is an illustration of the comfort and challenge of Jesus.

After a long day of teaching, Jesus is tired and enters a boat with His disciples to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

Mark reports, “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped” (v. 37). This was no small or imagined problem. Their lives were in mortal danger.

And what was Jesus doing? “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion” (v. 38). As followers of Jesus, we will often feel like we are in mortal danger, and we will wonder, why isn’t Jesus more concerned about this?

When we feel anxious about a situation, we generally want others to feel the same way. It’s not easy to tolerate a calm presence when we are filled with anxiety. So, what do we do? We’ll try to pull people in, and we’ve got a lot of ways of doing this.

One way we try to bring people into our anxiety is through accusatory questions. The disciples seek to pull Jesus into this situation by waking and asking Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

This is just the sort of question that is designed to awaken our anxieties as parents, pastors, bosses, and leaders. Our response is generally to defend ourselves, to reassure, or to argue.

But that’s not what Jesus does. He actually doesn’t address that issue at all. In essence, He says, “I’m not going to get into that with you, but here’s what I’d like to talk about: why are you so afraid, and where is your faith?”

This is the sort of question that would probably deeply disturb and annoy us. Here we are, we might say, in serious trouble, and you want to challenge our emotions and our faith!

It’s frustrating! Here’s a serious issue, and Jesus is telling us that we should not be afraid and have faith. A real challenge!

The fact is, though, that Jesus does care about them and us, and He is willing to help them. He stands up and responds to the storm, “Quiet! Be still!” –

Remember that at this point the disciples are just beginning to understand who Jesus is. So, they are terrified. The Greek adjective is mega. They are terrified with a mega-fear. They are in total disbelief at what has just happend.

Who is this? They ask. And that’s a great question for us to consider this Christmas. Who is this man? What kind of person is He?

In calming the storm, He not only solves their problems but gives them the key to controlling their anxiety and fear in every situation. Instead of seeing the storm, they need to see Jesus who is Lord above all storms. If they can understand that, then they will have a foundation for faith that can give them peace in the midst of every storm.

That’s why the question that Jesus asks is so crucial. Jesus has compassion on us but doesn’t enter into our anxious responses. He challenges us to have a faith that is the antidote to every anxious response.

So, where are you feeling anxiety this week? What are you anxious about? If you could see Jesus as for you and Lord over the totality of those events that you are worried about, wouldn’t that make a big difference? Wouldn’t that calm our anxious nerves?

But it’s hard to let go. It’s a real act of faith to say that we’ll let go of our own anxious responses and trust Jesus and His solutions.

That’s the comfort and the challenge of Jesus.

Comfort in Loss and Struggle

“But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus . . .” (2 Cor. 7:6)

Last week, I had the privilege to officiate at a funeral for one of our members, Ed Sumner. During the funeral, I shared some thoughts on his situation based on 2 Corinthians 7:6.

The Apostle Paul, who penned these words, knew the Word and promises of God well, but he still needed comfort. He was downcast, and God gave him the comfort he needed. How? “By the coming of Titus.”

Ed was also one who knew theology. He was steeped in the Bible. He had shelves full of books.

But Ed was often angry and downcast. He was lonely. He was an only child. He had no relatives. Relationships had not worked out well for him.

One day, Ed showed up at our church. He attended, and he kept coming back.

A few weeks later, he joined our church and stood to profess his faith along with two young girls who were doing the same that day. It was a beautiful picture of the body of Christ in its diversity. Continue reading “Comfort in Loss and Struggle”