Feeling out of place Part II

"And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying: Who is this?"–Matthew 21:10

(Part 2)

By Bishop

ROBERT E. HAYES JR.

At the close of Part 1, I had just exited a wedding reception where no one knew me. That feeling of rejection and isolation brought to my mind the ultimate incident of confused identity that occurred when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, on a day we now celebrate as Palm Sunday.

Even though Jesus had been in their midst for three years—preaching, teaching, healing the sick, and performing miracles—many were asking "Who is this?" along the parade route that day.

In my thinking, that question becomes the most important query Christians can answer.

Today, as then, the ONLY truthful answer to that question must come from you. You have to decide, right now, who Jesus is and what he means to you. Even more importantly, you must also decide whether to follow him.

The songwriter James Russell Lowell stated it beautifully: "Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, in the strife of truth and falsehood, for the good or evil side. Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight, and the choice goes by forever twixt that darkness and that light."

Who is Jesus? Now, in the shadow of yet another Easter, God is giving us another opportunity to answer the question.

It is a simple, clear request. You don’t have to be a great scholar to understand it. Many of us have heard the stories and parables since childhood. We have witnessed in parents, preachers, and loved ones their knowledge of Jesus demonstrated in the conduct of their lives.

Up until two weeks ago, I thought I knew who Jesus was. Then, caught up amid events of more recent days, I rediscovered something about Jesus that enables me to say without reservation, "I KNOW who he is!"

Let me explain.

The call in the night

Late on March 12, in the middle of the night, the dreaded call came. Through her tears and pain, my sister urged, "Hurry home! Mother is dying! The doctors have said they’ve done all they can do."

As day dawned, I excused myself from a Cabinet meeting and a retreat, cancelled a trip to Kansas City, and cancelled other appointments, so I could be at my mother’s bedside when she said goodbye to this world.

I don’t know if you’ve ever received a phone call similar to mine. If you have, you know the agony and pain of that moment are all mixed together with precious memories and cherished thoughts of years gone by.

You try to put up a strong and confident front, but the redness in your eyes gives you away.

You try to occupy your mind with peaceful thoughts when what you want is to cry aloud.

As my wife and I traveled from Oklahoma City to Houston, every mile of the 450-mile journey was filled with conversations about life, death, and resurrection.

When my wife fell asleep, I found myself alone with Jesus. I shared with him my great sorrow. I confessed to him that, although I had encountered death many times as a minister, this was the first time the fog of adversity, pain, and loss had rolled in so thickly upon me.

I asked all the familiar questions: Why? Why now? Where is God? How will we make it? You know the questions, don’t you?

And as I poured out my heart to him, I waited for answers that didn’t come. Instead of answers to my foolish human questions, a wave of reassurance came over me that I had never experienced. It was akin to that exchange between Jesus and two men on the road to Emmaus.

As they tell him of the tragedy that took place in Jerusalem, Jesus responds: "Oh foolish men, and slow of heart to believe ALL that the prophets have spoken. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things…"

New understanding engulfed me! Jesus was reminding them, and us, that what I was going through—what countless others have gone through—is all part of God’s eternal plan, Passion and Resurrection alike. The reassurance that flooded over me reminded me that Jesus went through all the pain and agony of dying on a cross for Dorothy Hayes… and for me… and for you!

On that journey home, Jesus helped me understand that my mother is heir to a promise and a presence that is nearing its fulfillment. The calm I felt in that moment lifted my sorrow, dried my eyes, and restored my faith in what I had always believed but only then fully realized.

Six hours later, I arrived at the hospital, not knowing if my mother was alive or dead. I expected to walk into her room and witness a body void of spirit and emaciated from the burden of 81 years. Instead, she sat up in bed, looked right at me, and said, "Hello, son!"

All the tests and conventional wisdom told medical staff she should have died days earlier.

But, if the doctors knew what I know about this man named Jesus, they would know all their medical experience means nothing when Jesus is in charge.

Who is Jesus? My answer: He is life, resurrection, and assurance for the journey home.


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