One of the great things about teaching Bible to middle school students is the chance to dispel the myth that God-followers are ‘wimps’ or ‘soft’ individuals. There is no way to read the stories of Abraham, David, Samson, Deborah, Esther, and a host of others without noticing the extraordinary courage in people of faith.
In the New Testament, ‘common’ individuals determined it was worth everything to live for His Majesty. Mary Magdalene, Paul, Peter, and Mary the mother of Jesus are four well-known followers. Though we live in different times with different challenges, we can learn from those who went before us.
In praising Jesus, I think Mary Magdalene and Paul would highlight their deliverance from powerful forces. Mary was possessed by demons. She could not control the evil that owned her. She was a hopeless case… apart from a miracle. Then Jesus of Nazareth appeared and cast out all seven of the evil spirits and brought true freedom to a daughter of Israel. From that moment forward, Mary loved her Teacher and was totally loyal to her Master. Of all people, God chose to let His Son appear first to Mary Magdalene after His resurrection. God makes the best choices…
Paul was delivered from the powerful force of ‘religion.’ With a brilliant mind, the young man Saul was unmatched in his zeal for the God of Israel. The problem was he had rejected Jesus as the One God sent to rescue the world. On the road to Damascus, the Light appeared and spoke directly to a determined Pharisee and changed his life forever. Through hardships of every kind, Paul ran his race like few others. He knew nothing of this world compared to what God has prepared for those who love and serve Him.
While also rescued and delivered from his sin, Peter would praise God that Jesus ‘chose’ him. “Who am I to be called by a King? What does Jesus see in me?” With all his flaws, Peter always remembered he was chosen, though he did not deserve the Lord’s mercy and grace. The same God has chosen to love us… though we don’t deserve such blessing. May we better understand this gift and may we offer ourselves to Him as living sacrifices.
Mary from Nazareth also knew the blessing of being chosen. Only one mother in the history of mankind would give birth to the Messiah. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant.” (Luke 1:46-48) From beginning to end, Mary loved, protected, and followed the One who also saved her soul. Her reply to God’s angel teaches us a proper response: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)
Let our voices join those who have known the goodness of God. He is the faithful One and He beckons us to live in His love.
“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins… If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” I John 4:9-10,15-16