Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.” And the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the Lord.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the Lord.) And Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the Lord, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the Lord went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground.
The angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the Lord. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” But his wife said to him, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.” And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him. Judges 13: 15-24 ESV
And when [Jesus] had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5:4-11 ESV
When Robin Hood and his merry men ruled Sherwood Forest, they would make rich travelers that passed through the forest stop. They would feed and entertain the travelers, but before they let them go they would take a lot of their money. One day Robin Hood and his men stopped a traveler who looked very noble and rich. They gave him a feast and entertained him with lots of contests in archery, wrestling, and other things. What they didn’t realize was that the traveler they had stopped this time was King Richard, come back from the Crusades. When they realized who they had stopped, they were worried and upset. They might have been in a lot of trouble for forcing their king to stop. But King Richard had enjoyed his time with them and forgave them.
When a man came to talk to Manoah and his wife it was God himself, but they didn’t realize that. They didn’t understand that God had appeared to them until he went up in the flames of the offering they were burning for God. When they realized that it was God himself who had appeared to them in the form of a man, they were terrified. They knew that they were sinful people, and that they deserved nothing but death from the hands of the holy God. But Manoah’s wife realized that God hadn’t appeared to them to punish them for their sins, but to bless them and tell them about the son he was going to give them.
God came to his world in Jesus to show all people his love and mercy. When people saw Jesus, they usually saw an ordinary man. But sometimes Jesus’ words or his actions gave people a hint that they were somehow in the presence of God. This happened to Peter when Jesus gave him a miraculous catch of fish. When he realized he was somehow in God’s presence, he was frightened. He begged Jesus to go away. But Jesus reassured Peter that he hadn’t come to punish him for his sins, but to love and forgive him and bless him with work to do.
Jesus came for us also. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid of God’s punishment for our sins. Jesus took all the punishment in our place when he died on the cross for us. We can look at the cross and know for sure that Jesus comes to us to love us and bless us, and to help us serve him with our lives.
Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to us in love and forgiveness. Amen.