There is a resurgence in the popularity of the television icon, Mr. Rogers, with the recent release of a biopic starring actor Tom Hanks, entitled, “It’s A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood.” While past episodes are easily found in a variety of media formats, there have been recent postings of special episodes. While many of us are familiar with the trademark sweater and warm welcoming song that Fred Rogers would greet millions of viewers, this episode was different. It was broadcast right after the tragic assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968.
His sensitivity and willingness to deal with an issue that many were uncomfortable or unwilling to face at that time was unprecedented. He was speaking to both children and their parents and millions were grateful for his courage and compassion. Throughout the more than thirty years the show aired, he never wavered or detoured from his message of love and acceptance for everyone. He ended each show with the same quotation, “You always make each day a special day. You know how: by just your being you. There’s only one person in the whole world that’s like you, and that’s you. And people can, like you, be just exactly the way you are. I’ll be back next time. Bye-bye!” In a chaotic and confusing world, generations of children and adults found acceptance in a very personal relationship that transcended the impersonal television screen.
After he passed away, someone anonymously posted, “Mister Rogers didn’t die. God just needed a neighbor.” Although I, like many children of my generation and the ones that followed, watched the original television show, I was never a fan. He was too nice. No one could be this nice and gentle.
Perhaps this is why it was very difficult for me to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I could not believe or fathom a God who cared for me in a very personal manner and wanted to have a personal relationship with me. This is Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe. Why would He even care about my needs? When I read the following verse recorded in the Gospel of John, I could not believe it. God could not be this nice and gentle. Why would God weep over the tomb of someone who died?
John 11:35 (ESV)
Why indeed? Jesus was weeping not only for his friend, but He was weeping for all of us. He wept for the pain and suffering that accompanies death. He wept because of the horror of death that separates loved ones from one another. But most of all, He wept for the eternal separation that death causes, rupturing any possibility to restore a relationship with God that was broken by sin. But instead of leaving us to drown in our sorrows, He acted. In the greatest act of compassion and courage in all creation, Jesus willingly laid down His life on the Cross. He took the penalty of the sins of all mankind upon His broken Body and reconciled us to God. He died for us even when I and others rejected Him.
I was too immature to understand or appreciate such deep and profound love, whether it came from Mr. Rogers or Jesus Christ.
I still am.
Thanks be to God for His grace and mercy to me who loved me so much, that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be my Lord and Savior.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.