Missing Christ? Look In the Streets, the Prisons, the Hospitals

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirty-one through forty-six of the twenty-fifth chapter. “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divide the his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick or. In prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:31-40).

            “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: Naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, LOrd, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it3 not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:41-46).

            WHEN THE SON OF MAN SHALL COME IN HIS GLORY, AND ALL THE HOLY ANGELS WITH HIM! THEN SHALL HE SIT UPON THE THRONE OF HIS GLORY! BEFORE HIM SHALL BE GATHERED ALL NATIONS! HE SHALL SEPARATE THEM ONE FROM ANOTHER, A SHEPHERD DIVDETH HIS SHEEP FROM THE GOATS! HE SHALL SET THE SHEEP ON HIS RIGHT HAND, BUT THE GOATS ON THE LEFT! THEN SHALL THE K ING SAY UNTO THEM ON HIS RIGHT HAND, COME, YE BLESSED OF MY FATHER, INHERIT THE KINGDOM PREPARED FOR YOU FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD! I WAS HUNGRY! I WAS THIRSTY! I WAS A STRANGER! I WAS NAKED! I WAS SICK! I WAS IN PRISON! WHEN SAW WE THEE A STRANGER? NAKED? SICK? IN PRISON? INASMUCH AS YE HAVE DONE IT UNTO ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE MY BRETHREN, YE HAVE DONE IT UNTO ME! THEN SHALL HE SAY ALSO UNTO THEM ON THE LEFT HAND, DEPART FROM ME, YE CURSED, INTO EVERLASTING FIRE, PREPARED FOR THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS!

            WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THE SON OF MAN? WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THE SON OF MAN? HOW ARE YOU TREATING THE SON OF MAN? CAN YOU EVEN RECOGNIZE THE SON OF MAN? ENTERTAINING ANGELS UNAWARE! ENTERTAINING THE SON UNAWARE? CAN YOU SEE THE SON IN THE HUNGRY? CAN YOU SEE THE SON IN THE THIRSTY? CAN YOU SEE THE SON IN THE NAKED? CAN YOU SEE THE SON IN THE SICK? CAN YOU SEE THE SON IN THE IMPRISONED? THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE MESSAGE OF THE SON IN LUKE 4 AND THE MESSAGE OF THE PROPHET IN ISAIAH 61! THE ANOINTING OF THE SERVANT! ANOINTED TO SERVE! ANOINTED TO BE SELFLESS! ANOINTED TO SERVE OTHERS! ANOINTED TO SERVE SOMEONE BESIDES YOURSELF! CAN YOU SEE THE NEED(S) ALL AROUND YOU? ISAIAH 42!

            ”The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent mt to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD< that he might be glorified .And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vindedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD; men shall call you the Ministers of our God. Ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. For your shame shall ye have double; and for confession they shall rejoice in their portion: Therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them. For I the LORD love judgment, I have robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed” (Isaiah 61:1-9).

            “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught int heir synagogues, being glorified of all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is the Scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth” (Luke 4:14-22).

            “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan” (Matthew 4:23-25).

            “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:35-38).

            “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law” (Isaiah 42:1-4).

            It is absolutely necessary that we draw and call our attention to the words which are found within these passages of Scripture, for that which we find in the sixty-first chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah is a powerful picture of what the life and ministry of the Messiah was going to be like. This particular verse would begin with a tremendous statement of the anointing that would be upon the Messiah and the Christ—an anointing that had absolutely nothing to do with Him, but rather an anointing to serve. We have great need to pay close and careful attention to this particular truth, for when we think and speak about the anointing—more often than not we think about the anointing in terms of serving ourselves, making our own name great, and building our own kingdom and empire. We dare not, we ought not and must not be absolutely consumed with the anointing as some means of serving ourselves and catering and ministering to our needs. There have been far too many men and women who have spent a great deal of time thinking  about the anointing and how the anointing was placed upon them to somehow make their name great, and to somehow make them great within the earth. The truth of the matter, however, is that when we read the words which are written and recorded in the prophetic book of Isaiah we find just what the anointing is for. What’s more, is that within the prophetic book of Isaiah—not only do we see and discover that which the anointing is for, but we also encounter that which fasting are for. I find it absolutely tremendous and incredible when reading the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah that in the fifty-eighth chapter, as well as in the sixty-first chapter—two chapters which are separated by two chapters between them—that within these chapters we find the LORD not only describing the purpose of the anointing that is placed upon us, but also the purpose of fasting within our hearts and lives. In all reality, I would dare say that you cannot think or expect to have one without and apart from the other, for the one is directly dependent and contingent on the other.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew, and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth that what is presented before and unto us within these verses is a powerful description of the call we have been given to serve those before and all around us. You cannot read the words which are found within the final verses of the twenty-fifth chapter without and apart from recognizing that there is a fundamental difference between the sheep and the goats whom Jesus separated in the day of His kingdom. As you read the words which are found within this particular passage of Scripture you will notice and discover how the sole and single difference between those who were thrust into outer darkness and those who were invited to enter into the joys of the kingdom of heaven were those who lived their lives as servants before and among those who were present all around them. You cannot read the words which are found here within this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that not only does Jesus bring us face to face with the tremendous and powerful reality of serving others, but He also adds the additional element that in serving others we were actually serving Him. Pause for a moment and consider that reality and how absolutely incredible it truly is. Stop and think about the words which Jesus spoke within this passage of Scripture, for Jesus would speak of servanthood in an entirely different light than we often think about, for He did not speak of servanthood merely in terms of serving those whom we encounter on a regular and daily basis, but He spoke of servanthood as actually serving Him.

            WOULD YOU SERVE CHRIST? ARE YOU SERVING CHRIST? HAVE YOU SERVED CHRIST? The underlying truth of the matter we find within this passage of Scripture is that Jesus emphatically declared that our servitude before and unto those who are before and around us wasn’t merely about them, nor was it merely about us, but rather it was about Christ manifested in and through them. The more I think about and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the truth that Jesus is present before and all around us. Did you catch that statement? Did you catch what I just said? As you read the words which are present before us within this passage of Scripture you will find and discover that although Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father He can still be seen, He can still be manifested, and He can still be felt all around us in those we interact with and encounter on a regular and daily basis. WE cannot read these words and not come face to face with the tremendous and powerful truth that in our serving others we are doing so much more than serving them, but we are actually serving Jesus the Christ in and through them. It is an incredibly powerful statement for Jesus to declare that whenever we did it unto the least of these we did it unto Him. How absolutely incredible these words truly are—particularly and especially when you think about and consider the fact that when those who were invited to enter into the kingdom of heaven heard the words Jesus spoke to them, they would ask Him when they saw Him hungry, or when they say Him thirsty, or when they saw Him naked, or when they saw Him sick, or even when they saw Him in prison. Perhaps one of the greatest truths that is found within this passage of Scripture is that not only were those who were invited to enter into the joys of the kingdom surprised to hear Jesus declare that they had ministered unto HIm, but also those who were cast out of the joys of the kingdom were also surprised. Those who were invited to enter into the joys of the kingdom were shocked and surprised to learn and discover that they had actually served Christ in their service unto others, while those who chose not to serve others were shocked and surprised to find and discover that they in turn didn’t serve Christ.

            Oh I cannot escape the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for the words which we find here within it bring us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that Jesus is indeed manifested among those who are hungry, among those who are thirsty, among those who are sick, among those who are naked, and among those who are in prison. The more you read the words which are found within this passage the more you will be brought face to face with the awesome and powerful statement that Jesus made, and how He declared whatever we did unto the least of these, and whenever we did it unto the least of these we did it unto Him. OH we cannot quickly ignore and move past this truly astonishing and captivating reality, for it highlights and underscores something that is more often than not overlooked when we think about serving others. More often than not we view and consider serving others as simply being about our humbling ourselves to serve them and to somehow minister unto and among them, and yet Jesus within this particular portion of Scripture emphatically declares that our service unto others is actually far greater than serving them. The very fact that Jesus would and could declare that whatever we did unto the least of these we did unto Him wonderfully and powerful suggests that we can see, we can feel, we can hear, and we can interact with Jesus each and every day all around us. FINDING JESUS IN THE NEED! SEEING JESUS IN THE NEED! HEARING JESUS IN THE NEED! Please do not miss and lose sight of those three declarations, for there have been countless men and women who have at one point in time or another felt and declared that they have not been able to see Jesus, nor have they been able to feel Jesus. There have been countless times when men and women within the body of Christ have found themselves wondering where Jesus is within their lives, and where Jesus is within their circumstances.

            FINDING JESUS IN THE STREETS! FINDING JESUS IN THE PRISONS! FINDING JESUS IN THE HOSPITALS! FINDING JESUS IN THOSE PLACES WE WOULD OTHERWISE AVOID! I am sitting here right now thinking about and considering the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the fact that there have been times within our lives as the people of God when we have felt as though the presence of Jesus within our lives and among us in our midst is entirely and altogether absent. What’s more, is I would even dare say that there are church buildings which haven’t felt or experienced the manifest presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in quite some time, and have oftentimes wondered where He is and where He has been. What makes this particular thought and idea so incredibly captivating is when you think about and consider the fact that more often than not there are times within our lives when Jesus cannot be found within the four walls of our church buildings and is going to be found in the four walls of a hospital, or even within the four walls of a prison. You wouldn’t think, nor would you even consider this to be true, however, the truth of the matter is that there are times within our lives when have felt distant from the Lord, and when we have felt as though He has been silent and absent within our lives. The more we think about and consider this particular truth and reality the more we are brought face to face with the fact that there are times within our lives when in order to find the Lord Jesus Christ we must needs be willing to move beyond ourselves, and we must be willing to move beyond the four walls of our church buildings, and move beyond the pews that are found within those buildings. Oh I find myself being absolutely captivated with the fact that there are times within our lives when we are invited into the streets, and we are invited into those places which might even be uncomfortable for us, and it is in those places we can and will find and experience the Lord Jesus Christ. There are times within our lives when we cannot and will not find Jesus in the midst of our church buildings, and that which He is doing is actually inviting us into the streets—into the place where the need is great, and where the opportunity to serve is truly plenteous.

            Please understand and recognize that when I write these words I am in no way suggesting that there aren’t needs present within our church buildings. Having grown up in churches all my life, having lived in a pastor’s home, having attended and graduated from Bible college, having served in different churches, and having even pastored a church for a short period of time, I am well aware of the fact that there are needs present among us within the four walls of our church buildings. What I am speaking of, however, is the fact that more often than not we view the church as a hospital where the sick, where the oppressed, where those in need, and where those who are struggling need to make their way to in order that they might find and experience that which they desperately long for. The truth of the matter, however, is that the church building is indeed likened unto a hospital where men and women can come that they might receive care and attention, however, with that being said I am absolutely convinced that directly linked and connected to that is a strong and powerful truth that we as the people of God have been called to be divine and spiritual paramedics and EMT’s—those who have been called to the places where there are needs in order that we might bring healing in those places, or bring those individuals into the house of God and among the people of God. Oh there are countless men and women among us within the four walls of our church buildings who expect those in need to automatically come unto us within the four walls of our church building, and yet the truth of the matter is that there are times when such individuals cannot and will not enter into the church building until and unless someone shows them the care and the compassion they so desperately need.

            One of the greatest questions I can’t help but ask as I sit here writing these words is whether or not you are willing to be that one who is able to leave the four walls of the church and go into those places where the needs are truly plenteous and truly great. When the pandemic struck this nation—yea, even the entire world—church buildings and houses of worship throughout the country were forced to shut down. Not only were church buildings and houses of worship closed, but corporate worship was no longer available to men and women as we have known and understood it over the years. It was quite interesting and astonishing to watch all of this unfold and how many people lost their minds and went absolutely crazy when the church buildings closed and when they could no longer enter into them to worship. There were pastors and lay people alike who thought to take matters into their own hands within the court and legal system as they threatened to sue state and federal governments. There were others who decided to take to the streets “that their voices might be heard” so they could protest church buildings being closed. Perhaps one of the greatest words and concepts that was used during this time was that of “essential” as there were countless men and women who felt as though the church buildings were essential. What’s more, is that such individuals would compare church buildings to liquor stores, to coffee shops, to grocery stores, and the like which remained opened during the pandemic that they might serve the needs of the public. Such individuals would argue that the church building was just as essential—if not more essential than these establishments and businesses. The truth of the matter, however, is that during these times many focused their attention more on the church building being essential than they themselves being essential. Perhaps one of the greatest questions that was asked during this time is whether or not men and women needed the church building to be essential in the earth. Oh I remember when the President of the United States went on national television and announced that church buildings and houses of worship were essential, and that they ought to be immediately opened. I remember how after the words of the President countless pastors, church leaders and ministers went to work to immediately open the church buildings that they might be “essential” in this generation and during these times.

            I have to admit that when all of this was taking place, and when I watched men and women threatening legal action against the governments, and when men and women took to the streets to protest the fact that church buildings were essential—that which they were doing was so much more than this. That which they were doing was making a statement that they themselves were essential, and that they’re being essential was directly linked and connected to the church building itself. One of the questions I found myself asking when encountering these particular events is whether or not men and women could be the church without the church building. For far too long we have equated “the Church” with the church buildings and houses of worship, and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply is not, nor has it ever been the case. Within and throughout the years and generations we have never been called to do church, or even to go to church, but rather to be the church. We have not been called to isolate and lock ourselves into the four walls of the church buildings, but have been called to be the church without and apart from the four walls of the church building. I remember very well how many men and women could not handle it when the church buildings were closed and shut down, and how very few actually thought to themselves how the LORD was actually accomplishing something much greater than that which they could even think or imagine. I remember being grieved within my spirit when ministers and church leaders threatened to sue governments over church buildings being shut down, and how men and women took to the streets to protest church buildings being shut for months on end. I could not help but view these actions and words of many as a great affront to and a great abomination before and in the sight of the living God, and how there were countless men and women who undoubtedly grieved the very heart of God during this time because of their protests, because of their murmuring and complaining, and because of their threats to take legal action.

            In all reality, I am absolutely and completely convinced that during this time when the church buildings were shut and closed down we were given a great opportunity to be the church without and apart from the church building. During this time I found myself encountering and coming face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that the church buildings being shut and closed down might have actually been the means which the living God took to invite us into that place where we were actually able to be the church without and apart from the church building. During this time men and women were forced to socially distance themselves, were forced to cover their mouths and noses, and were forced to shelter in place and stay at home. During this time there were countless men and women—and not only men and women, but also entire families—who were forced into their homes while a silent and deadly enemy prowled about in the streets, in businesses, in hospitals, in nursing homes, and the like. Church buildings were shut and closed down, and men and women were forced into a virtual environment where they would interact with others—whether it was services which were live streaming on mobile devices, or on computer screens, or even on television screens, or whether it was virtual Bible studies that were held. OH I sit here today as one who participated in several online church services, and who participated in several virtual and online Bible studies in order to have fellowship with others. I found myself during this time thinking and considering that the living and eternal God had shut the doors of our churches that we might find and experience the personal altars within our hearts and our homes—and not only that we might find our personal and private altars, but might also be present among those who were hurting, those who were broken, those who were discouraged, and those who were in need during this time. With the pandemic crippling this nation and its economy countless thousands—yea, millions of men and women found themselves without jobs as unemployment claims skyrocketed. It was during this time when countless millions of men and women were forced into a place they never thought they would or could ever be in as they found themselves without work and wondering how they were going to pay their rent, and how they were going to put food on the table.

            The more I think about and consider this particular reality the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that there are times within our lives when we look for Jesus within the four walls of our church buildings, and yet the places we more often than not find Him in the most unlikely places. I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with and by the fact that there are times when we seek to find Jesus and experience His presence within our hearts and lives, and the true and underlying way to experience it is by ministering among those who are in need. There are countless times when we expect to find Jesus in worship, or through prayer, or through the reading of Scripture, and yet there are times within our lives when He might very well be silent and absent in those arenas because He is actually found among those who are hurting and those who are in need. I can all but guarantee you that there have been times within our hearts and lives when we have sought to find and experience the presence and voice of Jesus within our church services and within our church buildings, and yet we have failed to understand and acknowledge the fact that He is sometimes found in the cries of the hurting and in the cries of the broken. Countless times we as the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ have spent so much time in worship, so much time in prayer, so much time in the reading of Scripture, and so much time within our own little “Christian” bubbles that we fail to recognize and understand that Jesus is and can be found among the hurting, among the broken, among the discouraged, among the helpless, among the orphans, and among the widows. Oh taking this a step further I feel it is absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which James wrote in his epistle found in the New Testament, as well as the words which are found in the fifty-eighth chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah. Consider if you will the following words found in these two books contained within the canon of Scripture:

            “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, DO not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy: and mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:1-13).

            “What doth it profit, my brethren, thou a man say he have faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye gave them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead…For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14-26).

            ”Cry aloud, spare not, Lift up thy voice ilke a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the days of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: Ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; Thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: and the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in” (Isaiah 58:1-12).

            The words which we find written and recorded within these passages of Scripture call and bring our attention to the tremendous and powerful truth that we have an incredible responsibility—not only to serve those who are present before and around us, but we have a tremendous responsibility to recognize the person and presence of Jesus in each and every individual we meet. Perhaps the single greatest question we need to ask ourselves is whether or not we can not only see, but can also recognize the person and presence of Jesus in those individuals we encounter within and during our every day encounters. When you run into someone at the grocery store—do you see Jesus? When you see a homeless person on the street—do you see Jesus? When you see someone lying in a hospital bed—do you see Jesus? When you see someone sitting in a prison cell—do you see Jesus? When you see an orphan without mother or father—do you see Jesus? When you see a widow who has lost everything—do you see Jesus? The single greatest question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are truly able to see and find Jesus in each and every interaction we have in the days and times in which we are living. That person who lives across the hall from you who appears to be struggling—do you see Jesus in them? That person who lives down the street from you who is about to lose their home—do you see Jesus in them? How we answer these questions can and will have a dramatic and powerful impact and affect on how we live our lives, and how we view and see the world around us. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—tell me how different our lives would be if we began seeing those who were before and around us through the lens of the person and presence of Jesus the Christ. How dramatically different would your life be if you began seeing men and women within your community through the lens of the person and presence of Jesus the Christ? Would it shock and surprise you to hear that it is possible to see and experience Jesus before and all around you? Would it shock and surprise you if I told you that there is absolutely no reason we cannot and do not see and find Jesus before and all around us? We know that the person and presence of God upholds all things and is manifested in creation, however, we must needs realize and understand that the person and presence of Jesus the Christ is also manifested in the lives of the countless men and women we experience each and every day.

            I sit here today thinking about the anointing which was mentioned in the sixty-first chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah, as well as the concept of fasting which is found in the same prophetic book, and I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that both fasting and the anointing aren’t even about us, nor are they even about our own needs. Even when Jesus spoke unto the disciples and declared “this kind comes not out but by prayer and fasting” He was making the emphatic declaration that fasting—as well as prayer—is not about us, but is about those who are before and all around us. We must needs realize and understand that fasting and the anointing have never been, nor will they ever be about us, and have always been and will always be about others. You cannot read the words which are found in the sixty-first and fifty-eighth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous and powerful that both fasting and the anointing have everything to do with making ourselves available to others through humility and service. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of how absolutely wonderful and incredible this truth truly is, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that both fasting and the anointing position us to live beyond ourselves that we might serve those who are before and all around us. Notice that when the prophet Isaiah was speaking of fasting he spoke of it in terms of loosing the bands of wickedness, undoing the heavy burdens, letting the oppressed go free, and breaking every yoke. Please note that the prophet also made the emphatic declaration that when we engage ourselves in fasting it is that we might deal our bread to the hungry, might bring the poor that are cast out into our house, and covering those whom we see naked, and not hiding ourselves from our own flesh. When you consider the words which are found in the sixty-first chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah you will find that the anointing of the Spirit is to preach good tidings unto the meek, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound. The anointing of the Spirit is also to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, to comfort all those that mourn, to appoint unto those that mourn in Zion, and to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

            The words which are found within the prophetic book of Isaiah cannot be overlooked, nor can they be overstated, as they bring us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that when we fast we are to do so that we might live beyond ourselves. There are those who would like to think that fasting is solely about them, and solely about their needs, their struggles, their trials, and the like, however, the truth of the matter is that according to Scripture fasting isn’t even necessarily about us at all. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how incredible this truth truly is, for it calls and draws our attention to the unbelieve and incredible reality that when we fast we are fasting that the needs of others might be met and that we might serve them. There have been countless men and women who have thought and perceived that fasting has everything to do with them, and yet the truth and underlying fact of the matter is that fasting is an invitation whereby we are brought into the place where we are able to live above and beyond ourselves that we might truly be able to be a blessing unto others. When you look at the call of Abram as the LORD called him forth out of Ur of the Chaldeans you will discover that Abram was blessed and was going to be blessed—not so much that he himself might be great, nor even that he might make his own name great. We know that the LORD would indeed make Abram’s name great in the earth, and we know that Abraham is directly linked to the three mono-theistic religions in the world—Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. With this being said, however, it is absolutely necessary that we recognize Abram was called and was chosen—and not only called and chosen, but also blessed that he might be a blessing unto others. Abram was one whom the LORD greatly blessed, and yet the sole purpose of his blessing was that he might be a blessing unto others within and during his generation—and not only within and during this generation, but also that the seed which would pass forth from him would continue to bring blessing within and upon the earth. The reason this is so incredibly crucial and critical is when we think about and consider the awesome fact that we ourselves have been blessed to be a blessing. We have never been blessed, nor will we ever be blessed solely for ourselves and that alone. We have been blessed that we might be a blessing unto others, and that through and as a result of our blessing we might bless others.

            What we find presented before us in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is a powerful statement and declaration that we are to live our lives beyond ourselves. We are to indeed live our lives beyond being self-seeking and self-gratifying, for we have been called and chosen to serve others. Even Jesus Himself emphatically declared that He did not come to be served, but that He might serve—and not only serve, but to give His life as a ransom for many. Time and time again Jesus presented the picture and spoke the words that those who would be greatest among us would be those who served, thus demonstrating the powerful truth that those who serve the greatest will indeed be those who truly demonstrate and manifest the kingdom of heaven within the earth. When we think about and consider the kingdom of heaven we must needs realize and recognize that the kingdom of heaven is not about being great as we would define greatness, but it is about our serving others as we live beyond ourselves to minister unto them. Permit me to ask when the last time was you actually took the time to serve someone else within your community, within your neighborhood, or within your church family? When was the last time you truly lived your life in service of others, and gave of yourself freely and unconditionally to those before and around you? We have understood that we are not to withhold ourselves from the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and that we are to give ourselves freely and totally to Him, however, the truth of the matter is that we must needs realize that we must also give of ourselves unconditionally to others. In all reality, this is the danger of what James wrote and spoke about when he spoke of being partial, for those individuals who are partial in their service unto others are those who are unwilling to give unto others unconditionally. What’s more is that those who withhold their willingness to serve others are those who will find themselves being unwilling and unable to actually fulfill the royal law of the kingdom of God. Not only this, but while it is indeed true we have been called to love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, we have also been called to love our neighbours as ourselves. What this in turn means is that we would treat our neighbor as we would treat ourselves—if not even better than we treat ourselves.

            I can’t help but be reminded of what has been commonly known as and referred to as “The Golden Rule,” which simply put is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We must needs recognize and pay close attention to this, for what Jesus didn’t say was that we ought to do unto others as they have done unto us. What’s more, is that with these words Jesus places the emphasis on our being proactive with our willingness to serve others and not to wait for others to do good unto us before we do good unto them. Those who truly fulfill this law of the kingdom are those who don’t wait for others to do good unto them before they are able to do good unto them. This also directly applies to those whom we might perceive as enemies, for we have been called to show no difference between our enemies and our neighbors. The command to love our neighbor as ourselves applies to our brother and sister as much as it does our enemy. So many times we base how we treat others, and the good we do unto others based on what they have done unto us, and as a direct result of this we completely and utterly fail to understand that loving our neighbor as ourselves requires us to give of ourselves. I would dare say and suggest that we cannot truly love others as we love ourselves if we are not willing to give of ourselves. We are entirely and altogether unwilling to love others and to do good unto others if we are unwilling to give fully and completely of ourselves. It should be noted that when that one who sought to justify himself by asking Jesus who his neighbor was heard Jesus teach and speak a parable that positioned a priest and a Levite as those who bypassed and ignored the need of another, while a Samaritan actually took the time to express their love and give of themselves to help that one in need. Both a priest and a Levite saw this man who was beaten and bloodied and left for dead, and yet one chose to walk on the other side of the road, while the other actually looked at this one who was hurting and in need before also passing by on the other side of the road. It is necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to this particular parable, for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth that we must needs give of ourselves unto others without reservation and without holding anything back.

            I absolutely love that which Jesus spoke when He instructed us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, for it places the responsibility solely and completely upon our shoulders to be those who live beyond themselves as they give of themselves to those before and all around them. We cannot afford to miss on this particular point, for we are called and we have been brought to the place where we must live our lives as those who are ready, willing and able to give of themselves that the needs of others might be met. It is truly something worth thinking about and considering that within the same chapter as Jesus gave the parable of those servants who took their talents and put them to good work we find Jesus speaking about those who ministered to the hungry, to the thirsty, to the naked, to the sick, and to those who were in prison. What I can’t help but think about and consider all the more is that there were essentially five different needs and five different types of individuals Jesus spoke of within this chapter, and the first servant was given five talents. I find this to be truly necessary to think about and consider, for each and every one of us have been called to give of ourselves to the hungry, to the thirsty, to the sick, to the naked, and to the imprisoned. We cannot and must not miss and ignore this particular truth and this particular reality, for to do so would be to miss out on the incredible importance of our need to give of ourselves unto others that we might serve them. It is truly something worth mentioning and thinking about when we read the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew that there was a servant who was given five talents, and the sheep whom Jesus invited into His kingdom were mentioned as those who ministered unto the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. Each and every one of us has been called to minister to these groups of individuals, and we have absolutely no excuse, nor any reason not to minister unto them. What makes this particular chapter even more intriguing is when you consider the fact that the one who was given two talents took those two talents and made two more talents. This is important for us to realize, for we might give of ourselves that we might minister unto the hungry and unto the thirsty, and yet we aren’t those who perhaps are able to enter into the prisons, or into the hospitals.

            What makes this all the more challenging is when you think about that servant who was given the single talent took it and buried it until the time for the master to call into account his stewardship came to pass. Oh I can’t help but think about this single servant as being a powerful picture of the goats whom Jesus would separate onto his left hand who couldn’t even minister unto one of these individuals. Those who could not minister unto the hungry are like that servant who chose to bury the talent he was given by the master. Those who could not minister unto the thirsty and the naked are like that servant who chose to bury the talent in the earth rather than putting it to good use for the purpose of the master. Those who could not minister unto the sick or those imprisoned are just like that servant who chose to bury the talent in the earth rather than actually taking it and putting it to good use. The question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are five talent servants, two talent servants, or one talent servants. Please note that what I mean by this is not even necessarily that which we have been given, but rather those whom we actually choose to serve and give of ourselves to. What I am referencing by this is our willingness and our ability to be those who are truly ready, willing and able to minister unto those who are hungry, those who are thirsty, those who are naked, those who are sick, and those who are in prison. If we are for some reason unable to minister unto these different groups of individuals we dare not and ought not be like that single servant who instead of putting that which he had been given by the master to work chose to bury it instead. We dare not and ought not be those who bury our talents in the earth like the servant who was given the single talent and chose to bury that talent in the earth before returning it unto the master who had given unto him.

            The more I think about and consider how absolutely incredible and tremendous this truly is the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that we have been called to be those men and women who give of ourselves to those who are in need. We have been called to be those men and women who are willing to give of ourselves that we might minister unto those who are hurting, those who are broken, those who are desperate, those who are destitute, those who are discouraged, and those who have great need within their hearts and lives. It’s quite interesting to think about and consider the words which Jesus spoke in the final portion of the twenty-fifth chapter, for what we find within them is a powerful picture of men and women coming to terms with their stewardship in this life and how they have treated those who are present before and all around them. It is something worth thinking about and looking into how the first servant mentioned in the parable was given five talents, and when we read about those who were in need in the latter portion of this passage of Scripture we find five different individuals mentioned—the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, and those who are in prison. We must needs realize that the sole difference between those who were separated on the left and those who were separated on the right was based simply and solely on what they did and didn’t do. What we must needs realize is that how we treat those in this life whom we interact with can and will directly impact us in the next life. What we do within time and space will echo and reverberate into eternity, and can and will be called into question and called into account when we stand before Jesus who is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Not only this, but the words we find within this passage bring us face to face with the fact that how we treat others is a direct representation of how we have treated Christ and how we will treat Christ. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truth and this reality, for it brings us face to face with the fact that we have been called to not only represent Christ in everything we do, but also see Christ everywhere we go.

            REPRESENTING CHRIST IN EVERYTHING WE DO! SEEING CHRIST IN EVERYONE WE MEET! REPRESENTING CHRIST IN EVERYTHING WE DO! SEEING CHRIST EVERYWHERE WE GO! Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—there is a great need within this life for us to be men and women who not only see Christ in each and every individual we interact with, but also see Christ everywhere we go. Tell me dear reader—do you see Christ in the homeless person who is on the street with no food, with no shelter, with nothing to drink, and nowhere to turn? DO you see Christ in the addict who is struggling to break free from addiction? Please note that this in no way suggests or speaks of Christ as being an addict, but rather of our ability to see Christ in them. What this speaks about is seeing Christ as being able to be formed in that particular individual whom we interact with on a daily basis—regardless of what type of need(s) they might have within their hearts and lives. We must needs come to the point and place where we are able to truly recognize and see Christ in everyone we interact with and in every place we go. Perhaps one of the greatest needs we have is to no longer regard anyone after or according to the flesh, but to actually begin regarding people through the lens of Christ. WE as the people of God must needs be those who learn to see Christ in everyone—and even if we can’t see Christ in everyone we have to be those who are willing and able to see Christ all around us. There are countless times when we have been searching and looking for Christ and we have even declared that we haven’t been able to see Him, and yet the truth and underlying matter is that we have neglected and ignored the fact that Christ is all around us. We dare not and ought not be those individuals who cannot see Christ all around us and then ask why He isn’t speaking to us, or why He isn’t appearing unto us. In fact, I would dare say there are times within our lives when the single greatest place to see Christ is not in the pews of the church buildings but in the corners of the streets. How many times have we sought to find Christ in the pews of our church buildings and the whole time He was actually present in the streets outside the church buildings?

As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary that we understand and acknowledge the fact that more often than not there is a greater need to see Christ in the streets as directly opposed to our church buildings. What adds even more weight and meaning to this is what men and women experienced when the church buildings were forced to close at the beginning of the pandemic. If the church building was the only place to see and experience Christ then there were a lot of individuals during that time who had absolutely zero interaction with Jesus during those months. If the only place to experience Christ is within the church buildings and within the pews of our churches then we are of all people most miserable and were such individuals who had an incredibly difficult time experiencing the Lord Jesus Christ during the late winter, spring and summer months of last year. IN all reality, I would dare say there were countless men and women who completely and entirely missed Jesus in the streets, and in their communities, and in their neighborhoods during those months, and are even to this day still meeting Christ. Even though churches have begun reopening, and even as other churches never closed to begin with there are countless men and women who are and who have been completely and entirely oblivious to the person of Jesus Christ present all around us within our streets and our communities. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of how absolutely necessary and critical this truly is, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that we must needs be men and women who are able to see and find Christ everywhere we go and in everyone we meet. Even if those individuals we encounter are not actual disciples and followers of Christ we must needs that whatever we do and whatever we have done unto the least of these we have done unto Christ. The question we must ask ourselves is how have we treated and how are we treating Christ in our generation and in our culture and society. Oh that we would be men and women who would be able to see and encounter Christ in the streets of our cities, in the hospitals, in the nursing homes, in the prisons, in our neighborhoods and in our communities. Oh that we would be those who no longer regard men and women after the flesh, but who begin to view men and women as being those with whom we have been called to love as we love ourselves, and do unto them as we would have them do unto us.

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