Mike sensed trouble as he approached the group of children huddled at the park.
“Come here, you little wimp!” came the booming voice of Brad Marten, the biggest bully in school.
Mike stood on tiptoes to see Brad’s latest victim. Oh no, thought Mike, it’s Tim Hodges. Quickly Mike made his way to the front of the crowd. He saw Brad, his blonde hair mussed and his freckled –face glaring as he towered over a wide-eyed, cowering Tim.
“What’s the matter, Tiny Tim?” Brad taunted. Then he nudged Tim in the chest and sent him staggering backwards.
Luckily, Tim was able to keep his balance, but this made Brad even madder and he shoved him again, harder. Tim landed flat on his back in the dirt.
Nobody made a sound. What would the bully do next?
Brad crossed his arms and laughed as Tim stood and brushed himself off. “You’re so little and skinny, I could. . .”
Suddenly Mike stepped forward. “Okay, Brad, that’s enough! Leave him alone!”
The bully turned to Mike and sneered, “I suppose Jesus sent you to rescue the little wimp, hey?”
Everyone laughed. Mike felt his face turn red. Gathering his courage he said, “You know, Brad, God made you and he loves you . . . even when you’re mean.”
Brad glared at Mike for a moment. Then, suddenly he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Oh, who cares anyway!” He picked up his jacket and walked away.
"Wh-why did he just walk away?" Tim asked in disbelief.
“I don’t know,” Mike said thoughtfully. “He could beat me up if he wanted to.”
“Well, you sure saved my life!” Tim said with a grin. “Thanks a lot!”
A few days later the school principal made an announcement. “Boys and girls, a classmate needs your prayers,” he said. “Brad Marten was hit by a car on his way to school this morning.”
“That’s what he gets for being such a bully," someone said.
Mike closed his eyes and said a prayer for Brad and his family.
Mike waited a few days and then went to the hospital to see Brad. “Hi,” he said softly as he entered the room. Both of Brad’s legs were in a cast, and so was his right arm. His face was bruised and swollen. Mike knew he must be in a lot of pain.
“Wh-what are you doing here?” Brad asked. His voice was weak and shaky.
“They said your friends could visit now, so I thought I’d stop by and see how you’re doing,” Mike replied. Then he remembered his gift for Brad. “Oh yeah, I brought you a book of cool jokes to read.”
At first Brad didn’t say anything. Then he said quietly, “I don’t have any friends . . . nobody likes me.”
“Aw, I like you,” Mike said kindly. “I’ve been praying for you every day. So has Tim.”
“Tim?” Brad looked puzzled.
“Tim Hodges - you know . . . Tiny Tim?” Mike reminded him. “He wanted to come with me today, but he’s been sick.”
“Oh, yeah? Does the little wimp . . . have a cold?” Even though Brad could barely talk, he still tried to be a tough guy.
Mike ignored Brad’s sarcasm and shook his head, “No, it’s more serious than that. Tim was born with a muscle disease. That’s why he’s so much smaller than the rest of us.”
Suddenly Brad moaned, “Oh, it hurts so much.” Tears filled his eyes and he turned his head so Mike couldn’t see them.
Mike closed his eyes and prayed out loud. “Dear Jesus, please be with Brad and ease his pain. Help him to get well quick.”
When Mike opened his eyes, Brad had a curious look on his face. “So tell me,” he said quietly, “how come you’re not afraid of me?” He was so weak he had to stop and catch his breath. “I could beat the snot out of you any time.”
Mike knew that was true, but he also knew that Brad couldn’t hurt him now, even if he got angry. “Oh, I don’t think you’re so tough,” he said. “I think you just act that way because you don’t know how to be friends.”
Brad didn’t say anything.
“So, how come you didn’t beat me up?” Mike asked curiously. “How come you just walked away?”
Brad looked embarrassed. “Because Jesus is your friend,” he finally confessed. “I went to Sunday school a few times before my mother died, and I know that if Jesus is on your side, you are too strong for me.”
“I-I’m sorry about your mother,” Mike said, “I didn’t know.” Then he smiled at the fact that Brad was afraid of Jesus! “Well, I’d better go,” he said, picking up his jacket. “You need to rest.”
“Wait! Don’t go!” Brad said sharply. “Then he said softly, “Would you tell me about your friend Jesus?”
Mike was so surprised that he hardly knew what to say. “Sure, Brad! But Jesus isn’t just my friend. He is a friend to everyone.”
“Does he really love...me?” Brad asked, recalling Mike’s words that day.
Mike prayed in his heart for Jesus to give him the right words to say. “Yes, Brad, he does.”
“B-but how can he?” Brad asked, “I’ve been so mean.”
“Jesus always loves us. He doesn’t like what you do when you bully others, but he always, always loves you.” Mike drew in a breath and continued, “If you invite him into your heart and ask him to be your friend, Jesus will forgive you for being mean and help you change your life. He can teach you to be good and kind to others.”
Brad’s voice was shaky when he spoke. “But . . .are you sure Jesus can change me?”
“Do you really want him to?” Mike asked.
Brad nodded eagerly and Mike said with a grin, "Then, I think he already has!"
Brad's eyes were bright with happines. He had two new friends -Mike and Jesus. Maybe Tim would be his friend, too.