The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
My son met Jesus at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. No, not in the sense that he became a Christian there. Rather, he met Jesus in the flesh, or, I suppose, a reasonable facsimile. (Photo: My son, Nathan, and Jesus, at the Rose Parade 2013)
It happened four years ago. My family has a tradition of getting up very early on January 1, jumping on the Metro Gold Line, and hopping off near the start of the Rose Parade. In the early morning hours, the floats for the parade are lined up on Orange Grove. You can walk along, almost close enough to touch the floats, and see them all before the parade. It’s a great way to enjoy the floats and some of the festivities without having to stand for hours along the parade route.
On January 1, 2013, as we were walking along, we came upon the float from the Lutheran Hour Ministries. And there, standing in the street, was Jesus. I could tell it was Jesus because he had Jesus’s hair and beard and Jesus’s long white Bible time robe. Plus, he was standing by a float with the theme: Jesus . . . The Way to Heaven. So, who else could it be? (Well, actually, it was probably a Lutheran pastor from Southern California who was chosen to dress up like Jesus and ride on the float. This is a tradition for the Lutheran Hour Ministries float.)
Today, January 2, 2017, my family and I will once again get up before dawn to check out the Rose Parade floats. Who knows? We may even run into Jesus again. In fact, there is a sense in which we most certainly run into Jesus.
No, now I’m not talking about a guy dressed up in an authentic Jesus suit. I’m talking about how Jesus makes himself known to us through people, especially people in need. In a parable in Matthew 25, Jesus used the figure of a King to stand in for him as the reigning Son of Man. The King gives special recognition to those who gave him food when he was hungry, drink when he was thirsty, welcome when he was a stranger, and so forth. Those being recognized are confused, because they were not aware they had done anything like that for the King. So the King explains, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt 25:40).
Thus, when we see Jesus’s “brothers and sisters” in need, when we see people who are hungry and thirsty, or strangers, or unclothed, or sick, or in prison, we are in a sense seeing Jesus because he identifies so closely with them. And when we serve those in need, Jesus receives our service as if it were offered to him. Those whom we serve many not be dressed up like the first-century Jesus, but they offer us a tangible chance to meet Jesus and serve him.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When you see people in need, do you ever think of them as representing Jesus to you? Why or why not?
As you think about your workplace, are there people in various kinds of need whom you can serve as if they were Jesus himself?
What could you do for those in your part of the world so as to care for their needs?
Lord Jesus, thank you that you make yourself known to us in many ways. Thanks for meeting us in unexpected places.
Help us, we pray, to take seriously your parable in Matthew 25. May we learn to serve your brothers and sisters, caring for their needs, and in this way serving and caring for you. Give us open hearts, we pray, for those who need tangible expressions of love. Amen.