Several years ago, I heard a speech on a Christian radio station. The speaker was Jack Rushton. Jack had been a teacher until the summer of 1989. When he was surfing one day at Laguna Beach, California, he had a surfboard accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. After several years of therapy, he began to write essays and give speeches at churches and colleges around the country. He said, “My life has shifted from focusing on the health of my body to focusing on the health of my spirit. My body is a wreck, but my spirit is in good shape. The Lord keeps healing my spirit.
I have learned that misery is optional. No matter how much suffering you have, you can still be joyful. Misery is optional. You can always have the joy of Jesus in your heart.” In other words, he was looking at his options. He was free to be miserable. He was free to be joyful. And he decided to be joyful.
I just love that short little sentence: Misery is optional. Now I’m going to put that story on the shelf and come back to it in a moment.
In today’s Gospel Jesus is giving his Farewell Speech to his disciples. He says, “I am going to the Father.” Then Philip says, “We want to go to heaven too. Show us the way to the Father. What is the way?” Jesus replies, “Do the works that I do, and you will get to heaven. Do the works that I do.”
So the question is: What did Jesus do that we need to do?
John’s Gospel says that Jesus brought Joy to the people. John’s Gospel chapter 15: Jesus said, “I came into this world to bring you joy. I came so that my joy may be yours and your joy may be complete.”
And that is what Jack Rushton did for so many people. He had a joyful spirit. He brought joy to many hearts. In the midst of his infirmities, he found the joy of Jesus and handed it on to others. If he could radiate joy as a person who was totally paralyzed, we can certainly do it as well. We can do as Jesus did. We can bring joy to others.
So how else can we do the works of Jesus? We can serve others without seeking reward. In Mark’s Gospel we read that James and John wanted to receive rewards for being disciples of the Lord. Jesus said to them, “No, No. You’ve got it all wrong. I came to serve and so you must do.” Jesus came to serve and not be served. He washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. He came into this world to serve. He came onto the scene as a servant.
In Philippians Chapter Two, Paul says that we must put on the mind of Christ who did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped but emptied himself and took on a human form as a servant. We are doing the works of Jesus when we are serving others without seeking reward.
How else can we do the works of Jesus? The gospels tell us that Jesus included everyone in his circle of friendship. He shared meals with the rich and the poor. He sat at table with the Pharisees and the outcasts. He made friends with the Romans and the Samaritans when everyone else was avoiding contact with them. He included the lepers and the tax collectors in his circle of friendship. If we want to do what Jesus did, we will set aside any prejudices that we may have and include everyone in our circle of friendship.
The gospels also tell us that Jesus was committed to a life of prayer. He prayed every day - sometimes at home, garden, desert, Mountaintop, temple, and synagogue. We will follow in his footsteps if we pray every day.
One more item for us to think about today: Jesus forgave his enemies. He forgave the soldiers who nailed him to the cross. And he calls us to forgive those who have hurt us.
I will close by calling to mind the works of Jesus. Bringing joy to others, serving others without seeking any reward, praying every day and forgiving those who have injured us.
We are called to do what Jesus did because that is the way to the Father. Bringing joy to others, serving, praying and forgiving - those actions provide us with the blueprint which will lead us to heaven and our heavenly Father. Bringing joy to others, serving, praying, and forgiving.