Common people. Maybe you heard their names in a childhood Sunday school class. They're not often the champions or the go-to sermon illustrations. They probably didn't stand at the foot of the cross or even hang next to Jesus on one of their own. But they pepper the pages of the Bible, reminding us that we're not alone.
Just like you and me, these ordinary people stumbled and struggled. They faced their own sin and came face to face with a God who not only wipes it away, but also makes the common extraordinary. They discovered that an encounter with the living God changes everything.
Dive into the lives of more than twenty of the Bible's most compelling characters through inspirational selections from the writings of bestselling author Max Lucado. An ideal companion volume to Cast of Characters, this book features a whole new cast and the encouragement from their stories.
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About the Author
Since entering the ministry in 1978, Max Lucado has served churches in Miami, Florida; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and San Antonio, Texas. He currently serves as Teaching Minister of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio. He is America’s bestselling inspirational author with more than 140 million books in print.
Visit his website at MaxLucado.com
Read an Excerpt
Cast of Characters Lost & FoundEncounters With The Living God
By Max Lucado
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Max Lucado
All right reserved.
When Jesus went in the boat back to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him there. A leader of the synagogue, named Jairus, came there, saw Jesus, and fell at his feet. He begged Jesus, saying again and again, "My daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so she will be healed and will live." So Jesus went with him....
While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of the synagogue leader. They said, "Your daughter is dead. There is no need to bother the teacher anymore."
But Jesus paid no attention to what they said. He told the synagogue leader, "Don't be afraid; just believe."
Jesus let only Peter, James, and John the brother of James go with him. When they came to the house of the synagogue leader, Jesus found many people there making lots of noise and crying loudly. Jesus entered the house and said to them, "Why are you crying and making so much noise? The child is not dead, only asleep." But they laughed at him. So, after throwing them out of the house, Jesus took the child's father and mother and his three followers into the room where the child was. Taking hold of the girl's hand, he said to her, "Talitha, koum!" (This means, "Young girl, I tell you to stand up!") At once the girl stood right up and began walking. (She was twelve years old.) Everyone was completely amazed. Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell people about this. Then he told them to give the girl something to eat.
—Mark 5:21–24, 35–43
Seeing the Unseen
When my daughters were young, we tried an experiment. I asked Jenna, then eight years old, to go to one side of the den. I had Andrea, six, stand on the other. Three-year-old Sara and I sat on the couch in the middle and watched. Jenna's job was to close her eyes and walk. Andrea's job was to be Jenna's eyes and talk her safely across the room.
With phrases like, "Take two baby steps to the left" and, "Take four giant steps straight ahead," Andrea successfully navigated her sister through a treacherous maze of chairs, a vacuum cleaner, and a laundry basket.
Then Jenna took her turn. She guided Andrea past her mom's favorite lamp and shouted just in time to keep her from colliding into the wall when she thought her right foot was her left foot.
After several treks through the darkness, they stopped and we processed.
"I didn't like it," Jenna complained. "It's scary going where you can't see."
"I was afraid I was going to fall," Andrea agreed. "I kept taking little steps to be safe."
I can relate, can't you? We grown-ups don't like the dark either. But we walk in it. We, like Jenna, often complain about how scary it is to walk where we can't see. And we, like Andrea, often take timid steps so we won't fall.
We've reason to be cautious: We are blind. We can't see the future. We have absolutely no vision beyond the present. I can't tell you with certainty that I will live long enough to finish this paragraph. (Whew, I did!) Nor can you tell me you'll live long enough to read the next one. (Hope you do!)
I'm not talking nearsightedness or obstructed view; I'm talking opaque blindness. I'm not talking about a condition that passes with childhood; I'm describing a condition that passes only with death. We are blind. Blind to the future.
It's one limitation we all share. The wealthy are just as blind as the poor. The educated are just as sightless as the unschooled. And the famous know as little about the future as the unknown.
None of us know how our children will turn out. None of us know the day we will die. No one knows whom he or she will marry or even if marriage lies before him or her. We are universally, absolutely, unalterably blind.
We are all Jenna with her eyes shut, groping through a dark room, listening for a familiar voice—but with one difference. Her surroundings are familiar and friendly. Ours can be hostile and fatal. Her worst fear is a stubbed toe. Our worst fear is more threatening: cancer, divorce, loneliness, death.
And try as we might to walk as straight as we can, chances are a toe is going to get stubbed and we are going to get hurt.
Just ask Jairus. He is a man who has tried to walk as straight as he can. But Jairus was a man whose path has taken a sudden turn into a cave—a dark cave. And he doesn't want to enter it alone.
Jairus is the leader of the synagogue. That may not mean much to you and me, but in the days of Christ the leader of the synagogue was the most important man in the community. The synagogue was the center of religion, education, leadership, and social activity. The leader of the synagogue was the senior religious leader, the highest-ranking professor, the mayor, and the best-known citizen all in one.
Jairus has it all. Job security. A guaranteed welcome at the coffee shop. A pension plan. Golf every Thursday and an annual all-expenses-paid trip to the national convention.
Who could ask for more? Yet Jairus does. He has to ask for more. In fact, he would trade the whole package of perks and privileges for just one assurance—that his daughter will live.
The Jairus we see in this story is not the clear-sighted, black-frocked, nicely groomed civic leader. He is instead a blind man begging for a gift. He fell at Jesus' feet, "saying again and again, 'My daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so she will be healed and will live'" (Mark 5:23).
He doesn't barter with Jesus. ("You do me a favor, and I'll see you are taken care of for life.") He doesn't negotiate with Jesus. ("The guys in Jerusalem are getting pretty testy about your antics. Tell you what, you handle this problem of mine, and I'll make a few calls ...") He doesn't make excuses. ("Normally, I'm not this desperate, Jesus, but I've got a small problem.")
He just pleads.
There are times in life when everything you have to offer is nothing compared to what you are asking to receive. Jairus is at such a point. What could a man offer in exchange for his child's life? So there are no games. No haggling. No masquerades. The situation is starkly simple: Jairus is blind to the future and Jesus knows the future. So Jairus asks for his help.
And Jesus, who loves the honest heart, goes to give it.
And God, who knows what it is like to lose a child, empowers his son.
But before Jesus and Jairus get very far, they are interrupted by emissaries from Jairus's house.
"Your daughter is dead. There is no need to bother the teacher anymore" (v. 35).
Get ready. Hang on to your hat. Here's where the story gets moving. Jesus goes from being led to leading, from being convinced by Jairus to convincing Jairus. From being admired to being laughed at, from helping out the people to casting out the people.
Here is where Jesus takes control.
"But Jesus paid no attention to what they said ..." (v. 36).
I love that line! It describes the critical principle for seeing the unseen: Ignore what people say. Block them out. Turn them off. Close your ears. And, if you have to, walk away.
Ignore the ones who say it's too late to start over.
Disregard those who say you'll never amount to anything.
Turn a deaf ear toward those who say that you aren't smart enough, fast enough, tall enough, or big enough—ignore them.
Faith sometimes begins by stuffing your ears with cotton. Jesus turns immediately to Jairus and pleads: "Don't be afraid; just believe" (v. 36).
Jesus compels Jairus to see the unseen. When Jesus says, "Just believe ...," he is imploring, "Don't limit your possibilities to the visible. Don't listen only for the audible. Don't be controlled by the logical. Believe there is more to life than meets the eye!"
"Trust me," Jesus is pleading. "Don't be afraid; just trust."
A father in the Bahamas cried out the same plea to his young son who was trapped in a burning house. The two-story structure was engulfed in flames, and the family—the father, mother, and several children—was on its way out when the smallest boy became terrified and ran back upstairs. His father, outside, shouted to him: "Jump, son, jump! I'll catch you." The boy cried: "But Daddy, I can't see you." "I know," his father called, "but I can see you."
The father could see, even though the son could not.
A similar example of faith was found on the wall of a concentration camp. On it a prisoner had carved the words:
I believe in the sun, even though it doesn't shine, I believe in love, even when it isn't shown, I believe in God, even when he doesn't speak.
I try to imagine the person who etched those words. I try to envision his skeletal hand gripping the broken glass or stone that cut into the wall. I try to imagine his eyes squinting through the darkness as he carved each letter. What hand could have cut such a conviction? What eyes could have seen good in such horror?
There is only one answer: eyes that chose to see the unseen.
As Paul wrote: "We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever" (2 Cor. 4:18).
Jesus is asking Jairus to see the unseen. To make a choice. Either to live by the facts or to see by faith. When tragedy strikes we, too, are left to choose what we see. We can see either the hurt or the Healer.
The choice is ours. Jairus made his choice. He opted for faith and Jesus ... and faith in Jesus led him to his daughter.
At the house Jesus and Jairus encounter a group of mourners. Jesus is troubled by their wailing. It bothers him that they express such anxiety over death. "Why are you crying and making so much noise? The child is not dead, only asleep" (v. 39).
That's not a rhetorical question. It's an honest one. From his perspective, the girl is not dead—she is only asleep. From God's viewpoint, death is not permanent. It is a necessary step for passing from this world to the next. It's not an end; it's a beginning.
As a young boy I had two great loves—playing and eating. Summers were made for afternoons on the baseball diamond and meals at Mom's dinner table. Mom had a rule, however. Dirty, sweaty boys could never eat at the table. Her first words to us as we came home were always, "Go clean up and take off those clothes if you want to eat."
Now, no boy is fond of bathing and dressing, but I never once complained and defied my mom by saying, "I'd rather stink than eat!" In my economy a bath and a clean shirt were a small price to pay for a good meal.
And from God's perspective death is a small price to pay for the privilege of sitting at his table. "Flesh and blood cannot have a part in the kingdom of God.... This body that can be destroyed must clothe itself with something that can never be destroyed. And this body that dies must clothe itself with something that can never die" (1 Cor. 15:50, 53; emphasis added).
God is even more insistent than my mom was. In order to sit at his table, a change of clothing must occur. And we must die in order for our body to be exchanged for a new one. So, from God's viewpoint, death is not to be dreaded; it is to be welcomed.
And when he sees people crying and mourning over death, he wants to know, "Why are you crying?" (v. 39).
When we see death, we see disaster. When Jesus sees death, he sees deliverance.
That's too much for the people to take. "They laughed at him" (v. 40). (The next time people mock you, you might remember they mocked him too.)
Now look closely because you aren't going to believe what Jesus does next. He throws the mourners out! That's what the text says, "after throwing them out of the house ..." (v. 40). He doesn't just ask them to leave. He throws them out. He picks them up by collar and belt and sets them sailing. Jesus' response was decisive and strong. In the original text, the word used here is the same word used to describe what Jesus did to the money changers in the temple. It's the same verb used thirty-eight times to describe what Jesus did to the demons.
Why? Why such force? Why such intolerance?
Perhaps the answer is found by going back to my family's living room experience. After Jenna and Andrea had taken turns guiding each other through the den, I decided to add a diabolical twist. On the last trip, I snuck up behind Jenna, who was walking with her eyes shut, and began whispering, "Don't listen to her. Listen to me. I'll take care of you."
Jenna stopped. She analyzed the situation and made her choice between the two voices. "Be quiet, Daddy," she giggled and then continued in Andrea's direction.
Undeterred, I grabbed the lid of a pan, held it next to her ear, and banged it with a spoon. She jumped and stopped, startled by the noise. Andrea, seeing that her pilgrim was frightened, did a great thing. She ran across the room and threw her arms around her sister and said, "Don't worry, I'm right here."
She wasn't about to let the noise distract Jenna from the journey.
And God isn't going to let the noise distract you from yours. He's still busy casting out the critics and silencing the voices that could deter you.
Some of his work you have seen. Most of it you haven't.
Only when you get home will you know how many times he has protected you from luring voices. Only eternity will reveal the time he:
Interfered with the transfer, protecting you from involvement in unethical business.
Fogged in the airport, distancing you from a shady opportunity.
Flattened your tire, preventing you from checking into the hotel and meeting a seductive man.
And only heaven will show the times he protected you by:
Giving you a mate who loves God more than you do.
Opening the door for a new business so you could attend the same church.
Having the right voice with the right message on the right radio station the day you needed his encouragement.
Mark it down: God knows you and I are blind. He knows living by faith and not by sight doesn't come naturally. And I think that's one reason he raised Jairus's daughter from the dead. Not for her sake—she was better off in heaven. But for our sake—to teach us that heaven sees when we trust.
One final thought from the seeing-with-your-eyes-closed experiment. I asked Jenna how she could hear Andrea's voice guiding her across the room when I was trying to distract her by whispering in her ear.
Her answer? "I just concentrated and listened as hard as I could."
Excerpted from Cast of Characters Lost & Found by Max Lucado Copyright © 2012 by Max Lucado. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1: Jairus Seeing the Unseen....................1
Chapter 2: Simon and Mary Risky Love....................11
Chapter 3: Jacob Wrestling with the Past....................21
Chapter 4: Cornelius Stable the High Horse....................27
Chapter 5: The Woman with the Issue of Blood A Crazy Hunch and a High Hope....................37
Chapter 6: Philip Blast a Few Walls....................47
Chapter 7: The Paralyzed Man The Hardest Thing God Ever Did....................57
Chapter 8: Noah When You're Low on Hope....................67
Chapter 9: The Woman Caught in Adultery Overcoming Shame....................79
Chapter 10: Peter and John When Persecution Comes....................89
Chapter 11: Nicodemus What Only God Can Do....................99
Chapter 12: Ananias and Saul Don't Write Off Anyone....................109
Chapter 13: David Colossal Collapses....................119
Chapter 14: Jesus' Brothers Feudin' Families Finding Peace....................129
Chapter 15: The Crippled Man at the Beautiful Gate See the Need; Touch the Hurt....................139
Chapter 16: Isaiah Holy Different....................149
Chapter 17: The Gadarene Demoniac Getting the Hell Out....................159
Chapter 18: The Leper Jesus Healed A Compassionate Touch....................167
Chapter 19: Mephibosheth When Grace Goes Deep....................179
Chapter 20: Josiah Overcoming Your Heritage....................189
Chapter 21: Job He Speaks Through the Storm....................199
Chapter 22: Peter The Crowing Rooster and Me....................209
Chapter 23: The Thief on the Cross The Tale of the Crucified Crook....................219