Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 20 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Seeing Jesus.”
Several times as I have stepped up to the pulpit in a church where I was a guest speaker, I have noticed a pointed message taped permanently to the desk.
It said, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”
This timely reminder to any and all who would occupy that pulpit is a direct quote from the Gospel of John 12:21. Here it is in context of the story in the Bible as it is rendered in the New Living Translation:
I have spoken many times about our Christian calling as ambassadors for the King of Kings. In all our circles of influence we must keep this thought ever uppermost in our minds. We do not walk this Earth for our own purposes, our own glory, fortune, fame, or reputation. In every relationship let us never forget that Jesus is revealed to the world around us through our individual words, actions, and attitudes. And, not only that, every person we meet has some basic spiritual need for life-giving connection with Jesus the Life-giver. Our task is to show them to the Master.
In this Bible story, Philip and Andrew took the inquiring Greeks to see Jesus. I think it’s important to realize they only took this step in response to the Greeks’ expressed desire.
There’s an important principle of “witnessing” here. Let’s not miss it.
People can only receive our witness when they are open to it. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
So, how do we know when someone is open and ready—hungering and thirsting for the gospel—so we can respond appropriately to their need?
The simple answer is that we probably won’t know unless we are in some way connected to their life. They probably won’t see Jesus in us unless we first see Jesus in them.
How does that work?
In recent times, perhaps the most widely recognized example of selfless, compassionate service to others is in the life and ministry of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Here is a quotable quote from her:
“I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”
In this, Mother Teresa has obviously taken her cue from the parable of Jesus recorded in Matthew 25. It’s the parable of the sheep and the goats, and the final separation of these two types of people and the record of their responses to the needs of the world around them.
At the conclusion of his story, Jesus spoke this principle for his followers: “[The] righteous ones will [ask], ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” (Matthew 25:37-40).
Conversely, for those who thought they were serving others, but who were doing so from a self-centered motivation, receive this scathing judgment: “When you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me” (Matthew 25:45).
Sharing all this with you just now brings to mind an incident from my time in Taiwan many years ago back in the early ‘70s.
In May 1971, my wife and I—together with our 10-month-old son—moved to Taiwan as missionaries. After learning Mandarin Chinese, I served as pastor in the Island, first in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, then in the capitol city of Taipei in the north.
One day while we were living in Taipei, I needed to make a journey to the south end of Taiwan. Traveling by train took about 8 hours as I recall.
Several days before my scheduled departure, I went to the train depot in Taipei and purchased my ticket for the journey. I carefully tucked the small card-stock ticket in my wallet so I wouldn’t lose it somewhere before it was time to go. The ticket specified exactly which car, and which seat matched my reservation.
When the day arrived, I got to the depot early so I could be sure to get boarded without a great rush to get settled before the train pulled out. I was one of the first passengers on board, so I had no trouble finding my seat and settling in. I had a window seat next to the outside wall. The aisle seat remained empty as other passengers crowded in, finding their spot, and stowing their belongings.
I was a good missionary, of course, and I was looking forward to discovering who my seat mate would be for the trip. The long train ride would provide a wonderful opportunity to witness for Jesus!
It wasn’t long until a nice-looking middle-aged Chinese lady came to the seat beside me.
“Oh, that’s nice,” I thought to myself. “She looks like an ideal prospect to engage in conversation. But, I’ll wait until we get underway.”
My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by one of the train personnel speaking to me.
“Excuse me, sir. May I see your ticket?”
It seemed another passenger thought he should be sitting in my seat.
“Oh, I’m sorry, sir,” the steward spoke. “You are in the wrong car.”
I looked at my ticket. Sure enough. Right seat number. Wrong car!
The steward graciously escorted me to the next car forward, and then to the seat where I was supposed to ride. The aisle seat was still empty.
“Hmmm,” I thought to myself. “Maybe I won’t have a seat mate after all. But, that’s okay. This will be a good time to start memorizing some scripture.”
I got settled again, reached into my briefcase and retrieved my small Bible. I opened it to Psalm 1, and focused on the first few verses, silently repeating them several times until I could remember them without peeking.
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).
(And, yes. I was memorizing the text from the King James Version. That’s the only one we used back then.)
Some passengers were still getting arriving, but it was almost time for the train to start moving. Then I saw one of the ugliest men I have ever seen in my life—and sure enough, he was my seat mate!
“Really, Lord? Why would I want to witness to this guy?”
The train began rolling forward as I fussed with the Lord. I stared out the window watching the green rice paddies slip past. Then I distinctly heard a voice in my head I recognized at once.
“What does that first verse of Psalm 1 say, Loren?”
I looked again at the text, and read, “. . . nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”
Conviction gripped my heart. Yes, that was me, right then in that very moment.
A short time later I needed to use the restroom at the end of the train car. As I stepped past the ugly man in the aisle seat I spoke in Chinese.
“Excuse me,” I said.
He looked at me with some surprise that I—an obvious American—could speak Mandarin.
When I returned to my seat, the man reached into his bag and brought out his picture ID booklet. Everyone in Taiwan was required to have this booklet in their possession at all times—even foreigners.
My seat mate thrust his picture ID booklet at me and said, “I used to be beautiful!”
“A doctor did surgery on my face and left me looking like this. I am so ashamed and discouraged. I don’t know what I am going to do. I used to be beautiful,” he repeated his sad statement.
He continued for several minutes telling me his story. His smoking had caused a cancer in his mouth. Surgeons had removed the cancer, but left him maimed and disfigured. He was obviously deeply depressed.
“Lord,” I prayed, “what do you want me to do for this person?”
I reached into my briefcase again and pulled out a small booklet about God’s love and care for each person. The booklet detailed step-by-step how to learn more about God and enter into a life-giving relationship with Him.
I handed the man the book with the words, “I think I have something that you need. This will help you feel better.”
He buried himself into the pages like a drowning man clinging to anything that floats. Occasionally, I stole a sideways glance at his face. Strangely, he was no longer ugly. A peaceful light radiated from his expression. His eyes shined with hope as he read.
Not long afterwards the train pulled into the station of his destination. He gathered his few belongings, including the book I had given him. As he tucked it safely into his bag he looked at me and pointed to the book.
“This is wonderful!” he said. His face shone with a newfound joy. “Thank you so much! This is wonderful!” he said again.
And, he was no longer ugly in my eyes.
He was “beautiful” again!
Well, I’m no Mother Teresa, but that little experience from many years ago is still precious in my memory. I have no idea the subsequent story of that man’s life. Maybe when God’s Kingdom is established once again on Planet Earth I’ll be able to learn “the rest of the story.” But, for now, I am still blessed—even after all these years—to know that God was willing to use a “scorner” like me to bring at least a few moments of peace and hope to a floundering soul.
So, I want to leave you with this question today: Do you want others to see Jesus in you? What kind of Jesus will they see?
You see, you and I may be the only model of Jesus which others around us will ever know. Surely, when I rub shoulders and interact with other people day-by-day, I hope and pray that the “Jesus” they see is compassionate, loving, and sensitive to the heart-cry of their soul.
I confess, I don’t come by those character traits naturally! It’s something I must pray for every day. And the Lord graciously does allow me occasions to witness for him even now.
And I praise Him for the joy it brings to my heart when I know others have seen Jesus in me.
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts about Spiritual Gifts and Working Together—God’s Way. Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!
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