By Johnny O. Trail
People are in the habit of seeking praise. As children, we crave the commendation of our parents. In the workplace, people sometimes require the praise of a superior or co-worker to feel successful in their work. Service organizations sometimes provide yearly awards of commendation to those who work in an impressive manner to advance the mandates of the organization. Generally, people want appreciation for their work and efforts.
Jesus commended various people during His earthly ministry. When one considers the people that Jesus recognized, the list sometimes surprises students of God’s word. Jesus was not interested in vain flattery for the purpose of manipulating others. Moreover, Jesus could not be fooled by actions that were insincere. John 2:25 says, “And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” For a few moments, let us consider people Jesus commended.
Jesus commended John the Immerser for his greatness. Matthew 11:11 says, “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” John was the forerunner of Christ (Luke 3.4), and one who boldly proclaimed the truth. Even in the face of the political elite, John told the truth about one’s spiritual condition. Matthew 14:3-4 says, “For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.” For his boldness, John the Immerser would ultimately be beheaded.
Jesus recognized the Roman centurion for his faith. Matthew 8:5-10 “And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” One imagines that this saying troubled many Jews, because Jesus acknowledge the faithfulness of a Gentile over the faiths of those who identified as Israelites. Nonetheless, the servant recovered from his palsy because of the centurion’s impressive faith.
Jesus praised the widow for her liberality. It is a small thing for a wealthy person to make a significant offering to the treasury, but this poor woman who was widowed gave her entire living—everything she had—to the treasury. As people devoted to God, we should make offerings sacrificially to God. Mark 12:41-44 says, “And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”
Jesus applauded Mary for her excellent work. Mark 14:3-9 “And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” Spikenard was an extremely expensive spice that is only found in Nepal. It only grows at the higher elevations of the Himalaya Mountain range. The great labor required to harvest this root underscores the wealth or degree of sacrifice necessary to obtain this ointment.
Suffice it to say that Mary did “what she could” to prepare the body of Jesus for His burial. Today the church would be better off if each person did what they could to serve Christ. More work would be accomplished and servant attitudes would prevail if we were like Mary.
Finally, Jesus recognized one of the lepers who returned to thank Him. Ten men were healed of the most horrible disease that one might imagine—leprosy. In spite of what the Savior did for them, only one person was thoughtful enough to offer thanks to God for being healed. Luke 17. 17-18 “And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.” Christians must always express thankfulness towards God for the blessings He bestows upon us.
What would Jesus commend you for in your Christian service towards Him? Hopefully, it would be a commendation rather than a condemnation for unfaithfulness. Our Savior stands ready to commend those who have been good and faithful servants.