I’m not the type to greet newcomers at church. I like to roll in barely on time, slide into my regular seat to support the singers when they start, and be the first to scoot out the door after the final song. The grandma juggling the toddler, squirmy six year old, and teenagers with their arms crossed? We don’t have much in common. The hip artsy couple with the tattoos? They’re too cool for me. Someone else will welcome them.
For most of my life, I’ve gone to church to be alone with Jesus. A person in the crowd, not looking to make new friends or head up the hospitality committee. Those are other people’s needs, other people’s gifts. I hope they find what they’re looking for….
So as Jesus approaches Jericho, (Luke 18:35-19:10) I’m just one of the crowd following Jesus. Together we pass right by the blind man on the side of the road. He is not one of us. He’s a familiar part of the landscape; we are focused on Jesus. Only by shouting persistently, despite us (the leaders) shushing him, does he get Jesus’ attention.
Perhaps we are busy gauging the size of the crowd. Has it shrunk since we left Jerusalem? How many came along for the journey down that famously deserted road? Did they feel safe traveling as a group? Those people in Jericho- are they coming out to meet him? Did the publicity work? Why aren’t more people coming?
Haven’t they heard what’s happening?
We didn’t see the blind man sitting on the ground. Jesus passed him by, and so did we. But Jesus stopped. And then asked us to bring that person into his presence, to go back and get him. That put us behind schedule. But best to take care of it so we can move on with our mission.
We don’t see the person running ahead either. The rich guy collaborating with today’s hated political powers. Who clearly wouldn’t be interested in Jesus. He has what he needs in his comfortable life, built on an economic system that takes from the poor and rewards the rich. We wouldn’t invite him to church. Nor would we greet him or shake his hand.
But Jesus stops. Again. This time he looks up. Not to ask what the rich man wanted, like when he gazed down on the blind man. But to tell him what he needed. Come down and serve me, Jesus said. And we in the crowd grumble. This is not who we had in mind when we put up posters.
Jesus looks high and low. He sees the poor person left behind, and the rich person who ran ahead. Neither are part of the crowd. And we are so busy following Jesus that we don’t think to invite them to join us.
Who are the people we don’t see, who have become part of our landscape? Who is calling out, but we find their voices to be a nuisance, a distraction from our goals? Who is eager to see Jesus, but we assume they don’t need him. They look like they are doing fine; their lifestyle demonstrates different goals. Have we gotten so caught up in our own following of Jesus that we miss the people that Jesus stopped to notice?
May we stop looking at the size of the crowd, and notice the individuals looking for Jesus. May we be willing to stop and speak with the unlikely, down in the dust and up in the trees. May we not just follow Jesus, but actually learn to be like him.
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart.
I want to see you.
When you are high and lifted up. And when you are low and reaching out.