Today we meet another nameless person whose deed of kindness is recorded and memorialized! Mark 15:34-36 shares that about 3 p.m. of Good Friday, after three hours of total darkness, Jesus cries out, revealing he is praying Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” One of the bystanders, a nameless man, hears the cry, hears the crowd murmuring that perhaps Elijah will come to rescue Jesus, but instead of speculating, responds to Jesus’ cry with kindness. He runs for a sponge of vinegar that he can put on a reed and press against Jesus’ lips. Not much but it is something. Helpful? We do not know.
Sometimes in the face of tragedy we are immobilized by the enormity of the problem and our help seems so little and inconsequential in comparison. We face problems like that today. Is wearing a mask truly going to stop a pandemic? Will my act of kindness curb the wave of racism?” What difference will my dollar make in the plague of starvation facing places in the world? We feel so small and the problem looms so big.
Moses, leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land, is told by God to send out twelve spies, one from each tribe. The men return impressed with the fruitfulness of the land, a land flowing with milk and honey, BUT are terrified by the size of the people. “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them. (Numbers 13: 33b) Modern communications makes it possible to bring news from all over the world and reports of the problems occurring. We feel like grasshoppers.
The man at the foot of the cross did not wait to talk it over with a friend. He did not wait to see if the problem would resolve. He did not look to the guards, government, to provide a fix. He did not interview the man on the cross to see if he was worthy of help. He ran. He got that which was available at the moment and acted to alleviate the suffering of another. It may be just that easy. The whole problem is in God’s hand and wisdom but the sponge is in our hands. It was not much but it was what was at hand and he acted. History remembers. We are not grasshoppers. We are people with hearts and hands that can reach out to relieve suffering.
Joshua and Caleb, the two spies that believed God could take their little and do something entered the Promised Land but the others did not. May we offer our little and not see ourselves as grasshoppers!