During the summer I read an article that contained an amazing sequence of events that made it an unforgettable testimony.
In fact, the particulars of this testimony consistently draw me into contemplating just how out-of-the-box, non-judgmental, and meeting-people-where-they-are Jesus really is. We — and by “we” I really do mean a generalized all of us who call Him Lord and walk in His counsel — so often form our concept of Jesus based on limitation. Limitation as to what is appropriate in a situation….limitation as to “what we would do”….limitation as to whether or not there is already an example set in Scripture so we know it’s really Jesus at work.
In the article, author Mark Ellis describes “Nelly” as “an African woman living in southern Europe.” She is severely afflicted by a brain tumor and has been diagnosed as terminally ill. Nelly approaches Christian neighbors and asks them to assist her husband and young son after her passing. While they wholeheartedly agree to do so, both Christians encourage Nelly to pray to Jesus and seek Him for both help and healing — which she is reluctant to do, given her Muslim background and lifestyle. However, since the tumor had already debilitated her from engaging in usual Muslim prayer rituals she actually does follow her neighbors’ encouragement and prays to Jesus for the first time in her life. Unexpectedly, He personally appears to her on the balcony and asks her a direct question in her native dialect: what is it that she wants?
AN UNCONVENTIONAL REQUEST
Hold that image in your mind — Jesus standing on the balcony, presumably quite recognizable to those familiar with His features, asking the woman what it is she seeks. Does Nelly recognize that He — the One before her — is Jesus, to Whom she just prayed? The documentation is silent on this issue. However, despite her preparations to face the result of her terminally ill diagnosis, Nelly does not request healing.
She responds that the household has run out of cigarettes, and smoking tobacco helps dull the pain in her head. Her logical request to Jesus, then, was to ask Him if He would provide cigarettes for her to smoke.
According to Ellis’ retelling, Jesus disappears from the balcony just as He appeared, and as Nelly goes into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, she opens the cupboard and makes an amazing discovery: there on the edge of the shelf is a fresh, unopened pack of cigarettes. Continue reading “Jesus is Still Surprising People”