Focal Passage: Isaiah
Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. Jewish custom was to enlist a
reader for the day.
Jesus stood, and was handed
the scroll of Isaiah. He chose to read chapter 61:1-3.
We can imagine that as Jesus
read, He internalized the needs of those He read about: naked people with no
one clothing them; hungry, with no one feeding them; sick, and no one visiting
them; imprisoned — most of them for debt — and no one delivering them; ill
beggars at the gates of the wealthy, but no one caring; widows with two
half-farthings separating them from destitution; laborers waiting all day to be
hired, but left unwanted.
Throughout the gospels Jesus
acted with compassion (with suffering) while dealing with needy people. He felt
and shared their suffering (Matt. 9:36-38). Therefore, we can interpret all
need as His need. Every hungry baby is a hungry Christ child; every weary
traveler is Jesus, walking miles to preach and minister. Anyone experiencing
need has Christ with him; therefore, whoever provides food or drink to the
suffering is serving the needy Christ.
St. Francis of Assisi was
such a person. Legend says that one day while riding his steed, he came upon a
beggar who was also a leper, shivering in the cold. On impulse, St. Francis got
down from his horse, embraced the beggar, and wrapped his coat around him. That
night St. Francis dreamed that he died. In heaven he saw Jesus sitting on His
throne, wearing the coat.
Jesus said, “I assure you:
Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40).
But here ends only half of our lesson. Jesus also prayed for you and me when he
said to the Father, “As You have sent me into the world, even so have I sent
them” (Jn. 17:18).
To serve Jesus, we don’t
need to leave home. We can simply value the things God values. Often this means
thinking small. I can’t provide funds for a college dorm, but I can offer water
to the thirsty. I can’t pay a needy person’s rent, but I can offer sympathy and
provide listening ears.
The Bible promises, “Cast
your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again”
(Eccles. 11:1 NIV).