Monday, January 24, 2011

Didn't Know It Was Him...

(photo from
I don't remember exactly how the discussion was going but the best I remember, it was centered around the needs of others. Looking back, it was about doing for others in Christ's name, and the story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew. The question that was asked went like this: "Was the 'goats'' lack of service a result of not wanting to serve...or not seeing the need...or of something else?" Then I was asked what I thought and here is what I said, "It is amazing what we can't see when we don't want to."

This morning, the reading from the Life Journal texts was from Luke 24, which is one of my favorites in Luke (aside from the birth narrative). It's a beautiful story, really. Jesus had been crucified. Maybe the disciples were witnesses, maybe they weren't. Fear has a funny way of making one run and hide. The movement was over as far as they could see, I mean, it had to be. How can a movement continue in such an early stage once its leader has been killed?

There was nothing else they could do, except go back home, and go back to what they were familiar with. At least that would be fairly comfortable. They could go back to their trades, back to their families, and say things like "Well, it was a good run..." or, "It was fun while it lasted..." But then he shows up. He always shows up.

"What are you talking about?" Can you believe this guy? After everything that has happened in the last few days...and small town can he not know what they were talking about? They didn't know who he was, and they didn't know where he came from...only that he hadn't heard what had happened.

I love the way Luke tells us why they didn't know who he was, yet at the same time, it disturbs me more than just a little. Luke says that they were "kept from recognizing him." They saw him, but they didn't SEE him, if you know what I mean.

The first time I saw a homeless person, I didn't want to see Jesus, so I didn't recognize Jesus. I saw the dirt and the ragged clothes, and knew that MY Jesus wouldn't look like that. The first time I saw a woman wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day I didn't want to see Jesus, so I didn't look. I saw the glasses and knew they were covering bruises, but MY Jesus couldn't be the victim of domestic violence. The first time someone knocked on the parsonage door needing food I didn't want to see Jesus, so I didn't look for him. I saw the look on the face and was too concerned about being taken. Then the "What if they don't really need food?" questions started, and besides, MY Jesus would never ask me for food.

MY Jesus would never look like a teenage girl, trying to decide between adoption or abortion... MY Jesus could not look like the kids in the mall with their pants hanging down...My Jesus would never get a tattoo or a piercing...MY Jesus would never ask for help with a utility bill...MY Jesus would certainly not rap...nor would MY Jesus ever struggle with addiction.

My Jesus, our Jesus, or at least the Jesus most of us want to see is a gainfully employed, middle aged, middle class, white man with a wife, 2 kids, a dog, and a newspaper in the driveway. The Jesus we want to see is self-sufficient, self-respecting, and clean. He has everything under control, never stresses, never cries, never raises his voice, never asks for anything, and never asks us to do anything uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, the Jesus we're not looking for sometimes sneaks up behind us, comes out of nowhere, and catches us completely off guard.

"They will answer: 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and not help you?'" He will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."


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