I’m fascinated by the pictures which have things hidden in the background that you have to look at for several minutes and from several angles before you see it in the picture. What is far more fascinating is how we can all look at the same scene in day to day life and see entirely different things in it. The old saying that one misses seeing the woods because of the trees is true. If you buy a certain brand of car you will suddenly notice each time you meet the same kind of car, especially if they are the same color as yours. Women in particular may go to a department store and purchase a dress for which they pay a substantial amount and for which they may feel excitement just thinking about wearing it. But if they wear it one day and see another woman or two wearing the same dress, it likely will never leave the closet again unless it is to be put into a gift basket for the needy.
When Jesus was walking among us on earth he would often say to the disciples, “Lift up your eyes and look.” He said, “He who has ears to hear let him hear.” When he had been raised from the dead and appeared to Mary Magdalene she didn’t recognize him to begin with thinking he was the gardener and wanted to find out from him where he had laid the body of Jesus. When he spoke her name she looked at him and saw who he was. Later when he walked with the disciples on the road to Emmaus they didn’t know who he was. Even when he talked with them about the Old Testament Scriptures and opened their minds to understand what was meant they didn’t recognize him. They said that their hearts were burning in them, but still they didn’t know who he was. They didn’t recognize him until they sat down to eat and Jesus broke bread and gave it to them, then they knew who he was and he disappeared from them.
In Matthew 25 beginning in verse 31 Jesus told a story about the coming judgment. He said it would be as when a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. He places the sheep on one side and the goats on another. In that time Jesus will say to those on the right, “Come you who are blessed by the Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me in. I was in prison and you came to me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you visited me.” The disciples who received this glorious invitation and the words of praise, were confused. They asked him when they had seen him sick, in prison, naked, a stranger, thirsty or hungry and took care of him. They had no memory of meeting Jesus in such a time and giving to him, even though they would have been willing and ready to do so at any time. Notice how Jesus answered them. “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” These were godly disciples being invited into the glorious kingdom to reign with God through the ages. Yet they didn’t see Jesus in the people they were caring for regularly. But there he was showing himself in the people around them who were hurting.
It shouldn’t be surprising to read the rest of that chapter as he speaks to the ones on the left that he told to “Depart from me you who are accursed, for I was hungry and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger and you didn’t take me in. I was in prison and sick and you didn’t come to me. I was naked and you didn’t clothe me.” They too cried out to Jesus, “When did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger, naked or sick and in prison and not take care of your needs? Jesus answered, “Inasmuch as you didn’t take care of the least of these my brothers, you didn’t take care of me.” If they had known it was Jesus in the ragged clothes, smelling up the whole place they would have clothed him.
Think of one more instance found in the Book of Acts. Saul of Tarsus was a devoted Pharisee and the preaching of Jesus tormented him to the degree he wanted to punish anyone who was standing for Jesus. He held the garments and encouraged those who stoned Stephen to death. He was like a mad dog going after men and women in their own homes and dragging them out to be tried for their faith. He had obtained letters of authority from the priest in Jerusalem to go to Damascus to arrest Christ followers there. On the road, a great light shinned around him. He heard a voice from heaven saying to him in Hebrew, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” He answered, “Who are you Lord?” Jesus answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” No doubt Saul wished to persecute Jesus but in his mind he was only going after the followers of Christ. What he didn’t recognize was that Jesus identified with every person he was persecuting. In each case the persecution went beyond the person to the Savior who gave himself for that person.
Have you seen God lately? Have you seen Jesus in someone who is struggling in life? God is trying in every way to show himself to us through the things he has made. But too often we see everything besides the God who made it all. We tend to put so much emphasis on humanity and our place in the world that every problem in nature we want to blame each other for. What would it be like if every time we looked into the face of a homeless person we saw Jesus? What if every time we looked at a hurting child we saw the face of Jesus Christ? Our God is active in the world around us all the time. Everything that happens is under his control. We must not miss seeing the one who transcends it all.