It was late September of my freshman year of high school. One night after practice, the coach took me aside and said, "Let's go into my office. I'd like to talk to you." Uh-oh, I thought. What did I do? Wasn't I working hard enough? Was the coach unhappy with my attitude? He closed the door behind me as I stepped into his office. Here it comes, I thought. But this is what he said to me: "I've decided to move you up to varsity."
Think of the times when someone has taken you aside to speak to you privately. Maybe it was your coach. Or maybe it was your parents or your boss or a co-worker. Sometimes when we're taken aside, it's to tell us good news, like when my high school coach did that my freshman year. Other times, however, what people tell us after taking us aside is not so good. But any time someone takes us aside, we can be sure that it's for an important reason.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus took a man aside. This man was deaf. He also had a speech impediment that made it difficult for people to understand him. His friends had brought him to Jesus, begging him to heal him. And out of compassion for this man, Jesus did just that. But instead of simply restoring this man's hearing immediately, in front of the crowd of people who had gathered around him, Jesus took him aside, away from the crowd. Why? Because Jesus wanted to make sure this man knew exactly what he was going to do. Since he couldn't hear Jesus, he could easily have been nervous or confused about what was going on. So after Jesus had gotten this man away from the crowd, he used some simple sign language to convey to him what he was about to do. Touching the man's ears and tongue, Jesus said, "Be opened!" St. Mark writes, "At this the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak plainly."
Jesus was deeply concerned about this hearing-impaired man. To Jesus, he wasn't just another face in the crowd; he wasn't simply another needy person demanding his attention. He cared personally about him as an individual. And he healed him compassionately.
That's exactly how our savior deals with us. It's easy for us to feel like just another face in a crowd of nearly 7 billion people, each demanding his attention. But that's not how Jesus sees us. Jesus sees us as individuals. He knows us personally. He understands our needs, our wants, our fears, our joys. And he deals with us individually. In one of my favorite verses in the Bible, Jesus tells us that even the very hairs of our head are all numbered. Jesus knows you personally, intimately. He takes you aside and treats you as an individual. Personally, compassionately, individually Jesus tells us, "I love you. I died for you. I forgive you. And I promise you blessing after blessing."
No matter what we face in life, no matter how great our pain or how heavy our guilt, Jesus heals and restores us personally, individually, compassionately.
- Brent Merten is pastor of Mountain Valley Lutheran Church, 802 Brush Creek Terrace, Eagle.