Reliable rumors circulate a dark lord has arisen. He is seeking to strengthen his power. He is annexing peaceful lands; building large armies; and manufacturing weapons at breakneck speed. His ultimate prize is the last gold ring. With the last gold ring his dominion will be complete.
By torturing a captive, the dark lord Sauron learns of the ring’s whereabouts. It’s in the possession of a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. A hobbit is a hafling – a little person of small stature and large feet. Hobbit Bilbo Baggins dwells in a rural Shire in Middle Earth. The dark lord Sauron dispatches wraith-riders to the Shire to seize the ring. Oblivious to it all, the rural dwellers of Hobbiton throw a great birthday party for Bilbo. Meanwhile, dark wraiths are riding to the Shire.
Before their arrival, a wizard galumphs down the road into Hobbiton. In a donkey-drawn cart the wizard Gandalf comes wearing a dull, pointy, felt hat, a long grey beard and grey tunic. He has come to help Frodo Baggins receive the ring and take it to safety. The grey wizard comes with one motive: to save the land from tyrannical evil.
This story imitates the greater, true story. We live in perilous times. It certainly was then. Judea was ruled by a foreign, world-empire, Rome. There was no independence for the locals. Disease was rampant. ‘Doctors’ only made the ill worse. Demonic activity was present but unrecognized. Sin ruled personal and social relationships. Sin wasn’t acknowledged but accepted as the way things are. People lived in guilt. There was little means of obtaining forgiveness. Houses of worship were led by religious leaders interested more in themselves than God’s glory. Death could strike at any time, even among the young.
Though disease is moderated, the same dynamics are still present today. Empire- building tyrants like Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, and Muslim terrorists threaten us. Once Christian Europe and America have lethal elements working within to expunge God from public life. Sin is destroying the personal and social fabric of society. Many today – even the churched – don’t recognize sin as sin. Everyone reading this sees its effects in your lives. Philosopher Etienne Gilson observed, ‘A world which has lost the Christian God cannot but resemble a world which had not yet found him.’ Someone please help us! Help!! Help!!
Help has come! A Rescuer is at hand! A Deliverer is here! Like the grey wizard Gandalf showing up in the village - but ten times better - ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1: 15). Indeed, ‘the true light, the light that enlightens all, was coming into the world’ (John 1: 9) and ‘I have come as a light into the world’ Jesus says (John 12: 46). Perk up your ears! Hear the joyful news! Celebrate it! Help has come! Help is here! ‘Ye blind behold your Savior come, and leap you lame for joy!’
Is it too good to be true? What are the motives? Who offers help without expecting something in return? What’s the catch? Is it for personal gain? No. Jesus’ estate was a cloak for which soldiers gambled. Was it for power? Does the God of the universe need power? Jesus had no institutional power. The church hierarchy excluded him. Rome crucified him. Was it for reputation? For glory? Called an illegitimate son, a false prophet and a fraud, Jesus died a criminal. Even followers forsook him. Don’t think so.
What’s His motive? Love. ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…’ and ‘to Him who loves us’ writes John. When Jesus saw the crowds, he pitied them. Our Helper has a heart to shepherd us lost souls through this dark world. “I have come as a light into the world so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in darkness’ (John 12: 46). More, Jesus wants to overcome death with life. ‘I came that they may have life…’ (John 10:10). He does not want me a sinner to die in my sin alienated from God. ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’.
Jesus helped us by accomplishing salvation through His death on the cross. His death removed my sin the offense standing between God and me. His death removed my offense and fulfilled my sentence. The novel I Am David takes place seven years after World War II. The Communists take a little boy David from his mother. David is put into a Stalinist labor camp in Bulgaria. An older man Johannes befriends and mentors David. Johannes prepares David to escape from prison. He wants him to be reunited with his mother.
One day when David is twelve, the guards force the prisoners into a line-up. Someone had stolen a soap bar. The authorities will flush out the offender and shoot him. The commander began to go down the line. Little David had stolen the soap bar. He held it in his hands behind his back. He didn’t know what to do. The guard brandished a pistol ready to shoot whoever held the soap. His mentor Johannes, standing next to David, saw David had the soap. Johannes slipped his hand secretly over David’s and took the soap from him. No sooner had Johannes done so then the guard discovered Johannes held the soap. Quickly pointing his pistol he shot Johannes dead. David was spared. Johannes covered David’s theft. He made David’s wrong his own and took the judgment. But having learned from Johannes, David escaped. David lived and was reunited with his mother. Jesus said, ‘The Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many.’
You are in great danger. You’re holding the gold ring. The soap bar is in your hands. Jesus has come to rescue you. Picture Him as in Holman Hunt’s oil painting, ‘The Light of the World’. See the figure of Jesus standing at night at your cottage door. Holding a lantern in one hand, with the other Jesus knocks at your door. His lamp illumines the vines growing up by your door. Hard times have come to you. Night is upon you. But here Jesus is… at your door: the Light of the world, your Rescuer, your Savior, the Son of God, at your door! The door has no handle on the outside. Only you can open it from the inside.
“He came to his own home, but his own did not allow him to enter’. Do not be like the passengers Seaman Leslie Morton saw in 1915 on the deck of the sinking Lusitania. The Lusitania, the twin of the Titanic, fifteen minutes earlier was struck off the coast of Ireland by a Nazi U-boat torpedo. The sea was filling the ship at a steady pace. Seaman Leslie Morton lowered a lifeboat to some passengers. Strangely, they were afraid to let go of the sinking ship. They held tightly to the ship’s ropes and deck rails. They more trusted the big sinking ship than the lifeboat that would save them.
Be persons who receive. Even if you received Jesus twenty years ago, reaffirm you receive Him still. To all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gives the right to be His children. See Jesus before you…at your door… your Savior come… ready to help you…able to save you. Let go rebellion. Let go of yourself. Throw yourself onto Him. Help is come!
Tom was most recently pastor of the Bellevue Charge in Forest, Virginia until retiring in July. Studying John Wesley’s theology, he received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Bristol, Bristol, England. While a student, he and his wife Pam lived in John Wesley’s Chapel “The New Room”, Bristol, England, the first established Methodist preaching house. Tom was a faculty member of Asbury Theological Seminary from 1998-2003. He has contributed articles to Methodist History and the Wesleyan Theological Journal. He and his wife Pam have two children, Karissa, who is an Associate Attorney at McCandlish Holton Morris in Richmond, and, John, who is a junior communications major/business minor at Regent University. Tom enjoys being outdoors in his parkland woods and sitting by a cheery fire with a good book on a cool evening.