Before the dinner guests began to choose their seats of honor at the banquet table; before the Jesus told them that it is better to choose seats of less honor and be asked to move up than to be asked to move down from a prestigious seat; before Jesus told the banquet host to instead invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind; before all of that, there was a man that Jesus noticed.
The man would have been hard to miss actually. The man had dropsy, what we call edema. The man’s body had filled with fluid and fashioned the look of a living, breathing water balloon.
It is the sort of sight that we are trained to ignore in order to not embarrass the person. It is the sort of situation where you initially glance at the bloated fellow, quickly turn away and say to yourself, “I’m not going to stare at the walking Goodyear Blimp… I’m not going to stare at the walking Goodyear Blimp.”
Eyes fixed straight ahead, you feel to tug of your three year old at your side who screams to your honor, “That guy is really fat!”
Agh!!! We are trained not to do this! We are trained to keep to ourselves. We are trained to ignore such things.
You bend down to your three year old and quietly recite, “If you can’t say something nice…don’t say anything at all.” Good people do not notice such things.
Of course, the flip side of that is that good people such as that man do not get noticed.
It is very lonely being different. People either make fun of you or they simply, do not notice you.
Jesus noticed. Jesus always notices.
These stories of Jesus loving and healing the lowly were always nice bible stories to hear while I was growing up. It was not until too long ago though, that a sudden realization…a sudden revelation about Jesus fell upon me. Jesus notices people like this man, not because they are freaks of nature, but because Jesus breathed life into each and every one of them.
They are his children.
This man is his child…his beloved child. Loving parents cannot look away when their child is hurting.
Jesus always notices.
I remember clearly the first time that I overheard another child picking on my granddaughter Trinity. When you love a child so much, there is no way that you do not hear those hurtful words, you cannot ignore them.
At first my heart sunk for her. How could anyone pick on such a lovely child? Then the rage set in.
There is this great viral video right now that shows the reaction every parent feels when their child is picked on. The man sees the terrible incident, and then proceeds to slap not only the offender, but also the offender’s parents, and the party guests, some guy who is just sitting at a nearby table listening to his music, and each and every police officer who are called in to stop him. Even the cat hiding in the tree is not exempt from the rage.
Now, Jesus and I do not promote the use of violence of course, but that is how you feel when your child is hurt, or left out, or struggling.
I have to imagine, that is how Jesus looks at us when we are hurt and go unnoticed by others; when we are left alone on the side of the dance floor with no one to take our hand.
Jesus always notices.
This past week was a good week for the police of Bradford County Pennsylvania. They caught and arrested 17 people who were dealing drugs and hurting our community. We give thanks for their service and hard work.
As I was reading through the names and looking at the pictures of the accused…these suspected thugs…I saw something that probably would have struck you also: most of these offending adults were pretty young.
On a whim I started looking at some of their Facebook accounts. You want to know what I saw? Well, a couple accounts were laden with swearing and drug residue, but to my shock, many looked the same as mine. They contained pictures taken with young nieces and nephews, had quotes of inspiration, and, of course, there were the loving comments of from devoted parents.
As glad as I am that these drug dealers are off of the streets and locked away, I could not help but think of the parents who look at their child's picture in the paper and feel the pain that only comes when you wish you could fix your child’s problems, but cannot. I could not help but think of Jesus looking at them with compassion, desiring a new life for them, not looking away and forgetting them as the jail doors are closed, but noticing.
Jesus always notices.
As a teenager attending a Christian rock concert, I once noticed someone who seemed to be one of those unnoticed people. She was a girl nearby who looked pretty from the back, but as you saw her face you could not help but see that she had the nose of a pig. The end of her nose was drawn against her face completely and her nostrils looked huge.
I do not intend to continue any of the certain horrors that this girl faced in her life, I just want you to have a clear picture in your head so that you understand just how blown away I was by what I saw of her later.
You have to understand that I could not concentrate on most of the concert because of my heartache for the type of life she must lead. But, my heart was surprisingly put at ease as soon as the concert was over when a crew of other girls her age flocked around her, desiring to what she thought of the concert.
The girl with the pig nose was the popular girl. She was the popular girl! How could that be?
Well, I imagine that it started out with a table of girls in middle school who saw her wandering the lunchroom, searching unsuccessfully for a place to sit, and inviting her over to sit and talk with them at their table.
"When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed…”
This command concerning how to fill out your dinner invitations is not simply a nice bible story to be smiled at. This command is exactly what Jesus does as he looks upon his own children and notices them.
In the church, Christ has a table where the thug, the deformed, the unhealthy, the poor, and the pig nosed are all invited to come and eat.
In God's kingdom, being invited to the table of grace, forgiveness, and healing can make all the difference.
At the Lord's table, lives can be transformed and new lives can be found. And, it is all because someone noticed and invited.
Jesus always notices.