(…continued) The novel The Robe gives us a wonderful way to approach these old stories. Lloyd Douglas was not the first one to come up with the idea, and most preachers have done this in one form or another. But he does this really well, and as he tells the story, he teaches us how to think more deeply about who Jesus was. Whenever one reads any of these stories one is imagining what it would it be like if Jesus came here, and visited our town, our congregation, or our family.
Think, for just one example, about all the ailments, all the illnesses, and all the aches and pains in you and the people you know. And then think about someone coming to town who could heal anything and everything, immediately, with no tests, no appointments, no prescriptions, no follow-up visits, no insurance paperwork, and all, at no cost. All one would have to do is to touch his robe. Would you miss that? Is there anyone you would want to tell about that? Wouldn’t you drop everything to go and find out about that, and then try to get in on it, even to the point of forgetting to eat, as we are told happened to the people in some stories. And even then Jesus took care of things by miraculously feeding 5,000 people out of one little boy’s lunch. Can you imagine what all this would be like?
Today’s celebrities often have a difficult time going anywhere without being bothered by people recognizing them and crowding around them. They receive all that attention and all they can do is sing a song or catch a football or repeat a few lines from a script for the camera. Think of the attention that someone would get if they could heal the sick and raise the dead. Sometimes, Jesus has to literally hide from the crowds in order to get some rest and spend some time in prayer. Even then, it wouldn’t long and the people find him, and Jesus would again be going out to serve them. In Matthew chapter nine, it says Jesus had compassion on the crowds, because they were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Marcellus and Demetrius are portrayed in the book as intelligent, privileged, and powerful, especially when compared to the poor and persecuted Christians they meet along the way. But the two men, unbelievers that they are, are indeed just what Jesus described, “like sheep without a shepherd.” The book, though fictional, describes in a way that is historically accurate, the emptiness and decadence of the Roman empire in the first century; and it shows the powerful attraction that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, had upon those who were lost and adrift in that society.
One time the slave Demetrius was trying to describe to a friend the strange comfort that he gets from touching the robe, and, as he believes, from the little bit he knows about Jesus. He says (paraphrased), “When I was a little boy and would fall down and hurt myself, I would run into the house and find my mother. She would not bother to ask me what I had been doing to bruise myself in that way, or scold me for not being more careful. She would just take me in her arms and hold me until I was through with my weeping. Perhaps my skinned knee still hurt, but I could bear it now. You see, my mother was always there for me, no matter how I came upon my mishaps.” He paused, and then Demetrius went on to say, “Slaves get very lonely, my friend. Often I have thought there should be for grown up people some place where they can go when badly hurt, and find that same kind of assurance that a little child experiences in his mother’s arms. I seem to get that from this robe, and therefore somehow, I think, from the man who wore it.” (continued…)
Matthew 11:28 — (Jesus said), “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:4-5 — Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
Matthew 9:35-36 — Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Acts 10:38 “…Jesus went around doing good…”
Our hearts are cold; Lord Jesus, warm them with your selfless love.