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“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
At one point, when my wife, Charlotte, and I were on the way home from our vacation in Texas, we stopped at a chain restaurant for lunch. Our waitress appeared harried and told us that she was having a bad day. She said she worked two jobs and had overslept that morning, only to discover that the District Manager was visiting the restaurant. Regardless, she did a good job and I made sure to let her know and give her a nice tip.
As a side dish for my meal, I had chosen a kale and Brussels sprouts salad. I enjoyed it and recommended it to a lady in a nearby booth, who happened to have our same waitress. When her salad arrived, she expressed her appreciation for my recommendation. I wondered why I was able to heartily recommend what was essentially coleslaw when I’m normally hesitant to recommend something much more important, eternal life in Christ.
While we were dining, I noticed that the waitresses had different numbers of stars embroidered on their aprons and that, while most had three or four stars, our waitress had only one. Intrigued, when we paid the bill I asked the cashier what the stars represented. Were they for years of service? Rank? Something else? The young lady told us the waitresses had to take tests periodically to show how well they knew the restaurant’s menu and policies. More stars represented a better score. And our poor waitress had only a single star, poor thing.
Jesus encountered a number of people during his time on Earth. There were also people such as blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52), Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2), Jairus the leader of the synagogue and his daughter (Luke 8:40-56), the woman who had an issue of blood (Luke 8:43-48), Zacchaeus the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10), the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:5-30), Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-44), and two unnamed disciples on the road to Emmaus after the crucifixion (Luke 24:13-35).
Sometimes the people Jesus met were “having a bad day” like our waitress. Other times, they were having a bad life. When Jesus and his disciples had dinner at the home of sisters Mary and Martha, Martha was having a bad day (Luke 10:38-42). She was doing all the cooking while Mary sat with Jesus and the men and learned from him. Martha didn’t think that was fair and she told him so (vs. 40b). After their brother, Lazarus, died, they were both having a very bad day (John 11:1-44). Lazarus had been lying in his tomb for four days when Jesus arrived in their village of Bethany (vs. 17). Martha went to meet Jesus but Mary stayed home (vs. 20). When she finally came out, Mary told Jesus, “‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” (vs. 32b ESV). Her day was very bad and it wasn’t getting better.
But Jesus asked where Lazarus’ body was and they went to the tomb, a cave with a stone across the opening (vs. 34, 38). He told the people who had gathered, “‘Take away the stone.’” (vs. 39 ESV). But Martha answered, “‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’” (vs. 39b ESV). Jesus told her that if she believed she would see the glory of God (vs. 40). Then he commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb (vs. 43). And Lazarus did.
We have a savior who heals the deepest wounds and soothes the deepest hurts. When we’re having a bad day, a bad week, or a bad life, our God is there for us. When we meet or see someone who is having a bad day, we can be messengers of grace, love and compassion. It cost me nothing to speak a few kind, encouraging words to our waitress but it may have made her day a bit better. We have something to offer the world that is much better than coleslaw. We can offer the grace, peace, and comfort of God.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’” (John 11:40-44 ESV.)