Jesus is committed to (re)forming you. It will take a life-time, but the sooner you cooperate with the Holy Spirit in this work, the greater the opportunity for healthy and joyous life. We need to learn how to live from our God-given identity. Jesus models this perfectly. He knew who he was and why he existed. His baptism identity held him through his life. He knew he was the beloved son of God, that God was pleased with him and that he had the authority of God in his life.
As we watch him interact with people, we see him interrupt the pattern of their life and give an opportunity to live from their true self rather than their pretended, assumed self.
I suggest you complete an assignment. It involves looking at specific encounters Jesus had with people and observing how his intervention gave them a new identity. Here’s an example from my prayer journal.
Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” Luke 7:11-16
Jesus observes a funeral procession. He sees a woman weeping. He realizes that she was a widow, torn by sorrow, bereft of intimate relationships and left without means of support. Perhaps she felt her life was over, or maybe she wished it was. Her tears and the testimony of the whole town confirm her loss. She is ever after without hope.
When Jesus saw her he had compassion on her; he desired her tears to stop and her sorrow to end. He used his power to resuscitate the man and returned him to her, alive and well. He restored her hope.
I relate to the woman’s sense of hopelessness. I often feel that my identity, or means of being acknowledged in the world is connected to another’s ability to provide it for me. Without this connection to power, I am lost and forgotten.
Jesus sees me; he knows I am afraid. He doesn’t condemn my lack of trust and he doesn’t want my fear to swallow and paralyze me. He comes along side of me and touches the place of my hopelessness; the progression into self-pity is stopped. He resurrects my hope and gives a voice to my dreams. I receive the life he gives.
Listed below is a list of encounters Jesus had that illustrate this type of intervention. Here’s the assignment: Prayerfully, read the following stories and answer the questions. You’ve just read one of mine. Please let me know what you discover.
- Woman with alabaster jar Matthew 26:6-13
- Gerasene demoniac Mark 5:1-20
- Rich young man Mark 10:17-22
- Annunciation of Mary Luke 1:26-38
- Widow at Nain Luke 7:11-16
- Woman at the well John 4:4-26
- Woman caught in adultery John 8:1-11
- Observe the person’s sense of self, how he/she felt about him/herself, from where did he/she draw her identity?
- What evidence of struggle with pain/sorrow/pride caused by his/her sense of identity do you see in the passage?
- As Jesus interacts with this person, what do you learn about Jesus’ desire for him/her through his actions, words, commands toward the person?
- In what ways do you relate to his/her struggle, pain or strength?
- If this passage were the only text you had to inform you about being God’s person, and God’s desire for your sense of self, what does it tell you?