By Jan Davis
Special to The PREVIEW
The trip with his father to Bethlehem of Judea remained Sam’s all-time favorite childhood memory. The angels appeared in the skies over the pastures where their sheep grazed and told of the birth of a savior. His dad selected a spotless lamb from the herd and together they followed the star to a stable.
Upon their arrival, the father and son presented the young lamb to the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, asleep in a manger. Sam asked the name of the infant. The small child’s father lifted him from his warm bed and held him high. “His name is Jesus.”
Some 30 years later, Sam left his sheep to graze in a field close to the river, while he pressed in closer to hear John the Baptist preach about repentance and forgiveness of sin. Conviction penetrated his spirit and Sam walked into the muddy water to wait his turn.
A hush fell over the crowd. A young man approached John in the water. They embraced each other and spoke in muted tones. People in the crowd called him Jesus, the son of a carpenter and John’s cousin. Could this be the same Jesus?
Sam watched as John baptized Jesus in the murky waters of the Jordan. When Jesus rose from the water, a dove descended from the clouds and perched upon his head. At the same time, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Those words convinced Sam — the young man was the same Jesus.
Sam heard rumors of how Jesus as a young boy dumb-founded the Pharisees in the temple with his knowledge of the Torah and the prophets. Another story told how Jesus turned tepid water into the best wine at a wedding.
Over the next three years, Sam followed the carpenter’s ministry as he sat around the campfires and listened to reports of how Jesus healed the blind, lame and lepers. Shepherds shared stories of forgiveness. The carpenter ate with sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes and offered them a new life.
Jesus’ disciples came from all walks of life. Fishermen, lawyers and doctors left their families, homes and possessions to follow him. He attracted large crowds wherever he went.
One day, Sam traveled a day’s journey from his field to here Jesus speak. This time, he brought Jonas, his own son. Jesus drew Sam’s son and other children close and taught them the benefits of a godly life, kindness toward others, and to honor and obey their parents.
As the day stretched on, the desert heat caused the multitude to grow weary. Jesus gave instructions to gather food for the large throng of people. Sam’s son handed his meal to one of the disciples. When Jesus took the bread and the fish and blessed it, Sam participated in his first miracle as one small lunch fed thousands.
People whispered in the market place of Jesus’ arrest, trial and betrayal. Sam followed a trail of blood along the cobbled streets of Jerusalem. The bloody path led to a hill called Golgotha. Motionless, Sam stood beside a small group of disciples. He watched as Roman soldiers nailed Jesus’ bruised and battered body to a cross. They lifted the cross upward and slammed it into dry, hard ground. A sign nailed across the top of the cross read, “Jesus, the Nazarene, King of the Jews.”
With flesh ripped from his bones, blood flowed unabated from nail scarred hands and a deep wound on his side. Jesus hung beaten, despised and rejected.
Not once did Jesus cry out in anger, but instead asked God’s forgiveness on behalf of those responsible for his torture. His final words, “It is finished,” completed Jesus’ work on earth and accomplished the perfect will of his Heavenly Father.
Sam comprehended a clear parallel of his own father’s gift and fell to his knees. A white and spotless lamb picked from the herd, presented to an unknown baby in a manger — God’s only son, hung lifeless on an old rugged cross, reviled and scorned by the world. Jesus, the perfect lamb sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.
Because of Jesus’ rejection, I was accepted.
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” — Isaiah 53:3 (KJV).
I love you, but Jesus loves you more.
By Jan Davis