In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus folds back the fabric of this world to a sobering scene in heaven of the final judgment. There, before God, all men and women are judged – and the criteria are clear: “I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me…” And when the righteous question, “But Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink…?” Jesus answers, “‘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!”
There’s a unique and profound point here – a mutual exchange. There is something Jesus has to teach us in both the giving and the receiving…and I believe it is essential that we humbly experience both…over and over again. Miraculously, and simultaneously, we become Jesus to those we serve, and they become Jesus to us. We find Him in unexpected places – both in our brokenness and the brokenness of others.
The late Henri J. Nouwen, (one of my favorite authors), was a renowned catholic priest, prolific author, distinguished professor, and respected theologian. Despite his colleagues’ pleadings, he left his highly successful professional life to take care of 25-year-old Adam Arnett. Adam was a quarapalegic whose constant seizures, inability to speak, and immobilization led to a painful life of obscurity. But it was here, in the unglamorous and secluded days and nights as caregiver, that Henri’s giving became the conduit for receiving his clearest and most intimate encounters with Jesus. As he recalls in his final book, Adam: God’s Beloved, giving his life to Adam had transformed into a final and precious gift in return:
"I found myself beginning to understand a new language…Here is the man who more than anyone connected me with my inner self, my community, and my God. Here is the man I was asked to care for, but who took me into his life and into his heart in such an incredibly deep way. Adam was my teacher, my friend, my guide...he was the one who more than any book or professor led me to the person of Jesus. "
It is the place of meeting and serving others in their weakness and brokenness where Christ meets us in ours. Look for Him in the unexpected people and places God calls you to serve.