Matthew 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “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.’
Today I met a man I will call Joe. He was worn and leathered, a hard life written over his skin and in his eyes, like a well-read book. His nicotine stained moustache framed the mouth that spoke pleas of desperation. He was holding a sign, I did not read it, I just looked into his eyes and shook his hand as I introduced myself. He proceeded to tell me that he was having a bad day, a bad life really and mine was good because I did not have him in it.
At that moment, the store manager interrupted, possibly thinking she was ‘saving’ me from Joe and offered him coffee if he would put his sign away and come into the store. I pulled out what I thought God would have me give him and walked around the store praying He would give me the opportunity again. Funny thing, I never shop where I went today and I was shopping for friends whose family was down with the flu. God had an appointment for me. The opportunities He presents are endless, if we would only look.
Joe was back at the door when I was leaving. I stepped over extending my meager offering and talked with him a bit more. I blessed him and left and as the door was closing I thought I heard him say wanna give me a ride home. I unloaded my groceries in the -30 with wind temperatures and did the bargaining thing with Jesus, you know, like if he really said that Lord and you want me to drive him home, let him walk out of the store when I drive in front of it. Guess what? haha I rolled down my window, “Joe, do you want a ride?” His eyes lit up and he slowly limped around and slid in.
Turns out, his little shelter apartment was on the way to my friends’ home. Funny how even this unexpected appointment was ordered. Joe shared his life, his look was a true reflection of all he’s lived. 40 years ago an accident paralyzed half of his body and he has been unable to work. We talked about Jesus. He knew God saved his life and he has been searching for his purpose ever since. I told him I think it was to make people smile as he hadn’t stopped telling me how kind and beautiful I was and that my husband was very lucky.
As we pulled up to his building, he said he was going to fight the eviction notice they have given him, but he wasn’t fearful. He didn’t know where he would end up next. I asked if I could pray for him before he got out, oh yes a beautiful angel to pray for me he said. I asked God for the impossible which isn’t impossible for Him. For Joe’s healing and provision, for God to be his strength. As he got out of the truck, he said it was God’s will that he met me today and if I ever change my marital status to come looking for him. That made me laugh out loud and I assured him that it won’t but I pray he is blessed and it was a pleasure to meet him.
I share this story with you today not because I think Joe is the least of these but because I know that I am too. I know that I needed Jesus and He saved me and set me free from sin and death. So when I give of my heart and time to someone that may have less than me, I know they are not lesser than in the Kingdom of God. Compassionate actions are the central message of the gospel and though the least of these may not encompass only the poor and needy, God gives us compassion for those that are.
I don’t know if God intends our paths to cross again on earth but I do know I will see him again someday. In 1986 he said, I accepted Jesus as my Saviour and I went back and thanked the nurse that saved my life. Our encounter was just as much for my heart today as perhaps it was for his. It reminded me that God answers us when we ask Him for opportunities to love others with His love. It shows me that a smile and being noticed can bring light to someone’s eyes. I saw how life is not all about me and God wants to interrupt us so we can extend His hope. I saw Jesus in a broken, frail man who seemingly had nothing but really had all his heart required. And I can pray. Thanks Joe. Thanks Jesus.
How can you extend the hope of God to someone today? Pray that God will open your eyes for opportunities and to have a heart willing to be interrupted. You might be surprised.