Saturday, July 2, 2011

To Notice Jesus in the Eyes of Others

(Photo by Kerry in EveryStockPhoto)

I experienced something pretty incredible last Sunday, all in a simple trip to the grocery store.

I was making my way to the front entrance when I noticed a tall, bearded homeless man sitting on a bench outside Pick n Save. What struck me as I was coming in his direction was the way he was brushing off his tattered pants. It didn’t seem to matter that he was wearing dirty pants; it was as if he was intent on keeping them lint-free. Or perhaps it was the ashes from the cigarette dangling from his mouth.

For some reason the action caught my attention. As I neared him, he looked up and our eyes met. I really can’t adequately put into words what happened next. It was as if I got a glimpse of Jesus in this man’s eyes, like I could really see Jesus in him. In fact, if Jesus were to be homeless, I really believe he would have looked similar to this man.

It almost took my breath away. It was a glimpse of the divine in a man of flesh and it wouldn’t let go of me.

As I walked inside Pick n Save, inside my heart I asked the Lord, “What should I do? Buy him some food? Give him some money?” I didn’t need to feel led to do something…I just had to do something. Otherwise it would have been like I had literally walked right past Jesus. Immediately this verse struck me, “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42, NASB).

So I turned to my youngest son who was with me (and had no idea any of this was going on inside me) and said, “I am going to buy that homeless man a bottled water.” “You are?” he asked with surprise.

As we got to the checkout, my son asked, “What if he’s gone?” I replied, “He won’t be.” I knew he would be there. When we came outside he was still sitting on the bench as I expected. I approached him with the water bottle and handed it to him, “Would you like some water?” He took it, turned it over in his hands as if he was examining it. He then looked at me and said in the gentlest voice I have ever heard, “Yes, thank you.” I replied, “God bless you.” He said, “Yes, you too” and I walked away.

Now here is the real lesson behind this story…I have seen this man a number of times. Many times he was sitting on that same bench. I am pretty sure he lives under the bridge near this Pick n Save. I have walked past him several times…never giving a thought to him. How many other people have I walked past, giving no thought to them and yet I had missed seeing Jesus?

It got me thinking that if only I could see Jesus in others the way I saw Jesus in him…how differently I would view people, how differently I would treat people, how differently I would look at the value of my time (in other words, I would take the time to notice). How much more would I reach out, instead of concentrating on my own agenda?

I will be honest here…the thought of being able to see Jesus in people is not on my radar. I tend to be too wrapped up in my own little world, what I have going on at the moment. I don’t always see the needy, the hurting, or those who just need a simple cup of cold water.

But for one moment in time, I got a glimpse. It was so powerful that for the remainder of the day I couldn’t get the man’s face out of my mind. And later that night when I was on my way to the evening church service, God spoke to my heart, “He has a name.” Yes, he does have a name. He isn’t just a face. He isn’t just a homeless man. He is a person with a name. I don’t know at this point what this means. I don’t know if the next time I see him, if I am supposed to ask him what his name is.

But I do know it has put me on notice…that I need to be ready to notice Jesus in the eyes of others…

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