Sermon – February 14, 2021

Esther by Jean-François Portaels, ~1869

Esther 4 – A Response to Suffering (mp3)

There are many times that the Bible speaks to us about things that, if we’re being honest, have no immediate application for us. Many of you have no children, yet we still think it wise to read and preach passages related to parenting from Proverbs and Ephesians. For many in America, passages dealing with persecution and suffering are the same. We might not experience those problems right now – but they serve as warnings to prepare us for times of trial, if they come. We may be like Esther, separated from the evil that befalls others, but that should not mean that we cannot respond! What is our response to suffering?

1. Lament
Mordecai’s first response, and sustained response, to the tragic edict is lamentation. I doubt that this would be the first response of many of us. Yet, the passage is indeed enveloped by lamentation. I wonder if we are more like Ahasuerus than Mordecai – trying to block out all that is bad, and all demonstrations of sadness, as though there were no things to be saddened by in the world. Yet our world is filled with evil and sin – and we therefore ought to lament more than we often do.

2. Learn
But why should we? Not because it is therapeutic, or a good cultural practice. Rather, we do so because we have learned from Scripture that we ought to do so! The pattern followed here matches Joel, which indicates, to my mind, that both Mordecai and Esther have themselves learned from Scripture. Let us do the same!

3. Love
Esther’s sending of clothes to Mordecai is often seen as a simplistic cry for him to cheer up. But it can also be taken as an act of love for him. Whether it was to cheer him up or give him clothing that he might come to Esther, it demonstrates Esther’s desire for his good and joy. What’s more, when she hears of his distress, she herself takes on that distress. Let us love like this! Let the pains of your brothers and sisters be your own – for that is indeed what we are called to in the body of Christ!

4. Listen
Esther, like many of us, is somewhat insulated from the sufferings of others. Yet, she does not blow off that suffering, or imply that it doesn’t matter to her until it knocks on her door. Rather, she patiently listens to the complaint and lamentation of Mordecai. We may desire to love, but we must be willing to listen first.

5. Lead
Finally, Esther begins to lead. She, not Mordecai, is the hero of the book for she is the one that best imitates Christ. She, a royal figure distanced from the suffering of the people, nevertheless puts her life on the line to save her people. Thus, she leads her people by serving them. Even her commands are present to secure the ends of salvation for her people. Let us lead in the same manner – by serving one another in love.