One Echo of Jesus – 1 Peter 3:18
I think I saw the shadow of Jesus. I didn’t actually see a person, but I heard his echo. I felt ripples. It happened as I took my Sunday school class of third and fourth graders to visit our town’s homeless shelter.
The shelter takes in families, so there are usually several children staying there. The kids I teach had spent the year doing little projects to help those kids at the shelter. At Easter, we filled Easter baskets and sent them to the shelter for the kids. And for Mother’s Day, we created an art kit so kids at the shelter could make a card for their moms. We filled it with markers and blank cards featuring a drawing of a mom and child. We picked out a bunch of fun stickers from our supplies at the church and tossed them in the kit too, so the homeless kids could decorate their cards to mom. We sent all this to the shelter.
Naturally, we wanted to actually go see the shelter sometime. So Sunday morning, with the trip finally arranged, my class piled into the church bus. Ever the teacher, I took five minutes before we left to explain why we were going.
“Who can tell me why people who follow Jesus, like us, would care about homeless people?” I asked the kids. “What does being homeless have to do with Jesus?”
One boy has an answer. “Because Jesus was homeless?” he guessed.
“Good,” I said. “How was Jesus homeless?”
The boy didn’t know, but another kid spoke up. “Jesus went lots of places, teaching people and healing them and stuff.”
“That’s right,” I said. “During part of his time on earth, Jesus didn’t stay in a home of his own. Can you think of anything else?”
It took a moment, but then a girl raised her hand. “Well, in order to do all that Jesus had to leave his home in heaven.”
“Excellent!” I said. “Yes, Jesus had the best possible home in heaven. But he left that home behind to come live with us and even die for us.”
Then I read 1 Peter 3:18: “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God” (NLT).
“You see,” I said, “we know what it’s like to need a home. We need a perfect home with God, and that’s what Jesus gives us. When we remember everything Jesus has done for us, it should make us grateful and caring. It makes us care about anyone who needs any kind of home.”
That brief lesson was solid enough teaching, I guess. I felt good about it at the time. But truth be told, I had said some good words without personally feeling their impact. I wasn’t actually feeling grateful for the eternal home Jesus gives me. And I hadn’t yet seen for myself that morning how far the ripples of his love at the cross can travel. Not until we got to the shelter.
When we arrived, we were given a tour. We saw the lunchroom and kitchen. Then we were led into one of the family bedrooms. Though they weren’t in, it was obvious a family was staying in the room. Backpacks were sitting neatly beside the beds. A few well-worn stuffed animals were atop the pillows. Whatever misfortune had brought these people to the shelter, they were keeping a semblance of family life. Photos of two children, lovingly placed in frames, were sitting on a shelf near the largest bed.
The shelter director was explaining how families often arrive with just a few treasured possessions. Suddenly, my students saw something and got excited. “Look!” they were saying. “Look what they have!” They were pointing to the shelf.
There, displayed next to one of the photos, was a handmade card with a familiar picture of a mom and child. It had been colored and half-covered with stickers. Across the bottom of the card was scrawled, “I love you, Mom.”
It had been made from the kit we’d supplied. We’d helped with that.
I’m well aware that there have been men and women, powered by that 1 Peter 3:18 verse I read—“Christ suffered for our sins”—who’ve done far more for the homeless than the little projects my class took on. Nor are the echoes of the cross limited to social action. Faithful believers who’ve tasted the love of God have crossed seas and continents to share with the lost how they too can be saved. Others have sold their possessions and dedicated their lives to the service of Christ’s church. Millions have abandoned shameful and destructive lifestyles to practice everyday holiness.
Indeed, the cross of Jesus changes everything. I knew that.
But at the shelter, I saw that power anew. I saw how one small Sunday school class’s hope in Jesus could change the lives of one child and one mother in one little way. Now I want more.
Jack Klumpenhower is a writer and communications consultant living in Colorado. He has authored Bible study lessons and a family devotional guide.