And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
“Peter, Andrew, James, John…let’s go for a walk. You have been living your life all these years on the sea. Come let me show you what you should see.” Immediately they left all and followed him.
Where did he take them? Did they just stay on the well-worn paths? Did they visit all the typical sites of business and commerce, trade and tourism? Yes they went to all of the synagogues but it wasn’t to talk religion. They went all over proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus didn’t just talk about the kingdom; he showed them about the kingdom. He got right down with the sick, the diseased, and the oppressed and healed them all. He was more concerned about the marginalized than the rich and influential. Untouchable leper? The ugly and deformed? The poor and hungry? Mentally and spiritually oppressed and dysfunctional? He went to them. He found them where they were and he healed them all. He didn’t judge, he loved. He didn’t see damaged goods that should be thrown away, he saw people who were hurting.
And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Jesus was street engaged. He had no home. Do you think that he understands what it is to be homeless? The King of Kings could have had all that any man could ever want or need, but he chose the streets. He knew that to reach the poor and oppressed he needed to be with them. And so he walked. He walked for over three years with his disciples. He tried to teach them not to see the problem but to see the person. Worn old woman with an issue of blood to be avoided? No a loving child of God who needed but a touch. A dangerous, fearful demon possessed oddity to be chained and left in the tombs for dead? No a man who needed to hear the words of God and is now seated and in his right mind.
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like a sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
I recently went on a street walk with Grace Street Mission. It was one of the most impactful evenings I can remember. We walked through a city that I thought I knew. In amongst the high price condos, busy commercial streets and high rise business towers are some of the most marginalized people of Halifax. Oh I have seen the homeless around, begging on the street corners. I have passed the addict sitting on the side of the street. This walk showed me that although I may have looked at these people, I had never really seen them. Where do they sleep? What do they eat? How are they able to practice basic personal hygiene? What do they do for companionship, friendship? Do they worry about their safety? In my little bubble world, I never stopped to see the addict as a person. I have never tried to understand the mentally and spiritually oppressed and the challenge that is really theirs. We are always taught to not give them any money…they will only spend it on drugs or alcohol. Maybe…but what would they be willing to do to get the money they need? When others look at you like trash you tend not to see the value that you have and are willing to do almost anything, no matter how degrading, to get what you need. When I help them, I am giving them dignity. I am saying that you don’t need to do what you were about to do. You are a person and not trash. The same people who taught us not to give to the addict always taught us the importance of leaving a tip at a restaurant. Do you judge how your server will spend the money? Does the clean cut, polite waiter deserve my money any more than the dirty unkempt guy on the street corner?
I was challenged when I looked at how Jesus looked at the needy. He looked with compassion. People who are on the street don’t need our pity, they need our compassion. That being said, I know that it isn’t possible for me to spend all my time down on the streets helping others. With that in mind I started looking at others that are in need around me. What about the lonely student away from home? What about the single mother suffering from depression and is overwhelmed with raising her children on her own? What about the husband struggling to find work to support his family? Don’t just look around you…see around you. The harvest is great and the workers are few. In some small way I choose to be a worker of compassion today. If you ask him, Jesus might take you on a walk today. If he does, you will never be the same.