You can’t read the Gospels without seeing His love and mercy and grace. His compassion for those caught in sin, bowed down with guilt and shame. Jesus was called “a friend of sinners” because He deliberately sought out those who were lost… society’s outcasts, the undesirables, the untouchables. The ragamuffins.
He went looking for them and He found them. No matter who they were or what they had done, if they were desperate for hope, hungry for truth, longing for help – He welcomed them. He received them with open arms, just as they were. He loved them. He forgave them.
And “on a hill faraway” — on a day that we celebrate today — He redeemed them. He laid down His life for them — shed His own blood to ransom them. To rescue them. To save them.
This same Jesus seeks us out. He searches for us, too. He invites us to come to Him. He wants to receive us, forgive us, redeem us, restore us.
Because He loves us the same way. He laid down His life to save us that very same day.
Even after we have come, even after we’ve said yes to Him, even after we’ve been cleansed and forgiven and made new… He knows we’re still going to fall into temptation sometimes. We’re going to mess up, big-time. We’ll make a lot of mistakes.
Still, He says, “Come!”
He loves us that much. That completely. Unconditionally.
Because of Jesus, we don’t have to live lives filled with guilt and shame and regret. Our mistakes don’t define us. We are so much more than that bad choice, that poor response, that selfish or angry or rebellious moment, more than any or all of our failures and mistakes. Past, present, or future.
In John 11, we read about two familiar figures who are most often remembered for their mistakes … down through the centuries, their names have become synonymous with their momentary failures. And yet in this one chapter, we see that they were so much more.
Jesus knew them for who they really were. It’s time we did, too.
First there’s Thomas. “Doubting Thomas.” The skeptic who once said, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) Through the centuries, many have condemned him for his lack of faith, while others have sympathized and rationalized why he was — “understandably” — slow to believe.
But that was just one faithless moment.
In John 11:1-16, the other disciples try to discourage Jesus from returning to Judea. They’re afraid and unwilling to go, even to help a friend like Lazarus, because the Pharisees might try to stone Jesus again. But Thomas puts an end to the discussion by boldly declaring that he’s willing to follow Jesus anywhere, even to His death: “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
And he meant it. Because that’s just what he did — he went, and took the other disciples with him.
Thomas had real courage. Real faith. Real commitment to the cause of Christ. He led by example. And he followed up his words with his actions.
Even in that instance when his faith failed him — however briefly — we see that he was afterward quick to humble himself, quick to repent and believe. Thomas was not defined by his mistakes. Because of Jesus, he was so much more.
Then there’s Martha. Every Christian woman knows the story of Martha — the woman who was so busy doing FOR Jesus that she neglected to spend time WITH Him. The busy woman bustling around the kitchen, caught up in the cares of this life, nagging and whining and complaining — instead of taking the time (like her sister Mary) to sit at Jesus’ feet.
Sometimes the way we tell the story, you’d think Mary was Cinderella and Martha, one of the ugly stepsisters.
But in John 11:17-43, it’s a different scene. Mary is the one whose faith fails her, whose emotions (anger, hurt, frustration, fear and despair) get the better of her. Mary only comes to Jesus when He calls for her.
But Martha is seeking Him; she’s standing out there on the outskirts of town, waiting for Him. And when He asks her if she trusts Him, if she believes in Him, she answers with one of the most powerful, unequivocal declarations of faith in all the Gospels.
She may not have known what He was going to do (vs 39), but she knew who He was: “Yes, Lord, I have believed [I do believe] that You are the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One), the Son of God, [even He] Who was to come into the world. It is for Your coming that the world has waited.” (11:27 AMP)
In spite of her bad attitude on that one “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” Martha was a woman of faith. A woman of strength and character and dignity and integrity. We see that throughout this story. She was not defined by her past mistakes. Because of Jesus, she was so much more.
What about you?
Will you let your mistakes and failures define you? Or will you choose to believe what Jesus says about you — will you choose to see yourself as He sees you?
Flawed, imperfect, but deeply beloved. His priceless masterpiece, His greatest creation, His most precious possession. (Eph 2:10, 1 Peter 2:9) Gloriously individual and unique. Day by day becoming a beautiful reflection of Him.
I’m so excited that I can finally share with you more of this message I’m so passionate about… What Women Should Know About Letting It Go comes out April 14th!
You can find more information, tweets, and pinnables, and download a free sample chapter on the Letting It Go book page. Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and support!