Lois Lane and Mary Jane Watson have a pretty good life. At first glance, this statement might not make sense. These two leading ladies seem to always find themselves in a world of trouble. Every time you turn around, one of them is falling off the side of a building or the victim of an evil plot hatched by Lex Luthor or the Green Goblin. What makes Lois and Mary Jane’s lives so good, though, has nothing to do with how frequently they find themselves IN trouble, it has to do with who always shows up to get them OUT of trouble. When Lois finds herself in peril, Superman is always there to save the day. When Mary Jane is in despair, Spiderman spins her a web of protection. These two superheroes lend their presence and power to provide protection for those they love.
Of course, the lives of the superheroes we Marvel, are not real. They make a great story, but they do not translate into reality. In real life, however, the followers of Jesus Christ find themselves living a pretty good life. At first glance, this statement might not make total sense. The followers of Christ have found themselves persecuted and/or marginalized for 2000 years. 11 of the 12 apostles were martyred for their faith. Even today around the world Christians are imprisoned, beaten, and killed because of their relationship with Christ. What makes the lives of Christians so good, though, has nothing to do with the circumstances they find themselves IN, it has to do with who always shows up to be with them THROUGH the trouble. Indeed, one of Jesus last promises to His people before He ascended into heaven was, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus has promised to be with His people no matter what.
Though Jesus promise to His disciples to be with them always came in the early stages of the first century of the common age, the Old Testament provided allusions to God’s presence with His people in times of need. In the book of Daniel, the nation of Israel was stuck in exile in Babylon when the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, passed a law demanding that all people worship an image of himself. Of course, worshipping anyone but God was a violation of the first commandment, so a few of the faithful followers of God refused to follow Nebuchadnezzar’s decree. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not bow down to the idol, so Nebuchadnezzar threw them into a fiery furnace as punishment for their disobedience. Of course, these three men should have been instantly consumed by the flames, but after some time, Nebuchadnezzar looked inside the furnace to see not 3 men, but 4 men dancing inside!! In Daniel 3:25 one of the king’s men described the scene this way, “I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” Many biblical scholars understand this mysterious fourth person to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. Jesus was with His people in their time of need, even in the Old Testament, hundreds of years before His birth in Bethlehem! His love for His people could not keep Him from them.
As people who live today 2000 years after the birth of Christ, we should take great comfort from this story. Just as Jesus was not separated from the faithful followers of Yahweh God BEFORE His birth, how much more so will He not be separated from His followers AFTER His birth, death, and resurrection. We can have confidence that He will be with us always, even to the end of the age. Regardless of what you are going through right now, we can know the Savior is with us, if we have trusted in Him. Though not everyone will be spared the “flames” of difficulty in this life, all followers of Christ can have the comforting presence of God with them at all times.