Meditation: “Jesus Moments"
by Debbie Celsie
I was reading a devotional about a man who was in Brownsville, Texas, working with an organization that cared for refugees upon their arrival and release into the States. He said a group of about forty young men from the Ukraine had arrived with nothing more that what they had on their backs and whatever they could carry. Without anyone noticing, one of the youngest had fallen behind and got separated from the group as they quickly moved through the checkpoints. It wasn’t until a small supply of necessities given by charity had been divided amongst them that one of the volunteers spotted the lone straggler trying to catch up to the rest. He also noticed that he had no shoes, only socks upon his feet. Knowing there wouldn’t be a chance for him to backtrack, he ran back to the supply room to see if anything was left, hoping to find some shoes that might fit. Finding what he thought might work he ran back and despite all the chaos around him, he sat the young man down, knelt before him and taking his feet into his hands very slowly and thoroughly wiped off some dirt and whatever else was stuck to the young man’s socks, he then smoothed out the wrinkles in the first sock and then the other, slipped the shoes on the man’s feet and carefully tied the laces.
However brief, there was a moment between those two strangers, where everything else just seemed to slip away. The man who was telling this story said there was something about this scene that caught the attention of those around them. Witnessing this young fellow far away from home being given the care and compassion one would give their very own could only be described by him as a Jesus moment.
Jesus moments are something that just seem to happen. They are not something you can manufacture or orchestrate. What we do in these moments are governed solely by the heart. Jesus moments are not about asking questions, eliminating doubt, or making judgments, they only prompt us to see and respond to the basic needs of another human being regardless of who he or she is. A Jesus moment always benefits another. We see this with the Good Samaritan who didn’t stop to think about who he was helping; he just did what he could to bring relief to another.
The story of Mary when she uses a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anoints Jesus’ feet, and then wipes them with her hair is one that shows both a Jesus moment and a moment that was not, both at the same time. Mary did what SHE did because Mary loved and the need to show this love just stemmed for her very being. The intensity of that moment and how it played out was beyond any ordinary day to day occurrence. But then, we have Judas who was there to witness what Mary was doing, and just as spontaneously he cries out with disdain wanting to know why the perfume wasn’t instead sold for three hundred denarii. He could not see the Jesus moment before him, he could not see the value of relationship and connection especially if it meant giving something of oneself, to someone he didn’t deem worthy or deserving.
If we stop here for a moment, we can think about times when we may have helped or done something nice for another. We can also ask ourselves, when was the last time I did something for someone else without stopping to think about how deserving they may be or not be? When was the last time I did something for someone with no expectations to receive something in return, without any conditions, no strings attached, without any count of cost? Angelus Silesius, a seventeenth century German priest, wrote, “The rose gives of it’s blossoms just because it blossoms. It has no motive. What if we just loved because that’s who we are, because that’s where we came from and that’s what we are called to do?
That’s the picture we get of the Good Samaritan. He shows us what it means to love thy neighbour, and his experience checks off all the boxes of a good Jesus moment. He comes across someone unexpectantly and his willingness to help comes from nothing more than his own compassion and sense of goodwill. And while others walked pass or distanced themselves from the man lying on the road as if they might taint themselves with another human being’s misfortune, the good Samaritan went above and beyond the call of duty.
I now ask the same question I am sure you have been asked each and every time you have heard this parable. Who are YOU in this story? Are you the Priest? The Levite? Or the Samaritan? Let’s see a show of hands…. Who sees themselves as the priest? Who see themselves as the Levite? And who sees themselves as the Samaritan? Well, that was interesting!
You see, if we all just to quickly see ourselves as the good Samaritan, I think we would be selling the story and ourselves short, because I would imagine that we have all seen glimpses of the priest or the Levite within us to some degree or other on days that were not our best days. Haven’t we all noticed or been made aware of a need but have passed by because we’ve been too busy, preoccupied, on our way somewhere, afraid? Because we already had to much on our plates, maybe we might have thought we would do something about it later but later never came, it was quickly forgotten, out of sight, out of mind, or maybe we convinced ourselves it wasn’t our problem to deal with? What about when we see those panhandlers on the street corners looking for a bit of change? Have we ever insulated ourselves by saying, ‘I do not carry cash with me’, or cross to the other side of the street so as not to have to deal with them or just turn our heads the other way? Perhaps we even have a few choice words to say or unasked for advice because we have already passed judgement on that person before us? And on the flip side of that, to our credit, we have all had good days when we have followed the Good Samaritans example and responded the way we are called to do.
These are the obvious things this story prompts us to think about, and it is a great message!
But what if there was more Jesus wanted us to notice about this story? We all know he never intended his parables to be just straightforward and simple right? What if walking away today with the notion that we are good people who understand the nature of ‘love thy neighbour’ and who are willing to claim we would never hesitate to help another, isn’t enough? What if the answer to the question, who are we in this story isn’t as straight forward, obvious, or as simple as we may have always thought. What if Jesus was trying or intending us to think and question ourselves in a different way? Maybe the whole point of the Samaritan story is that we are not him, and he is not us.
Think about it for a moment.
Going back to biblical times when Jesus told this parable there was nothing but hatred, bitter and entrenched hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans. They despised each other. To Jewish listeners back then, Jesus making the Samaritan ‘good’, the hero of the story, was scandalous. He was the obvious outsider. Bring it forward to 2023 and how might this scandal translate to our 21st century lives? Well, for example, think about these questions, who is the last person on earth you'd ever think of as ‘the good person?’ Who is the last person you'd ever think to ask for a favour — much less save your life? Whom do you secretly hope to fix, control, or save — but would never, expect or even allow yourself to need?
Translate in todays world……. A white racist is robbed, and a Good black teenager saves their life. An atheist is robbed, and a Good Christian fundamentalist saves his life. The Samaritan was the last person that man lying there would have wanted to have contact with or association of any kind. So, perhaps this story is calling us to imagine ourselves, not as the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan, but in the wounded man, dying on the road. Did anyone consider themselves to be that person in the story??? I wonder if anyone has ever answered in that way??? Did you realize he’s the only character in this story who is not defined by profession, social class, or religious belief. He has no identity at all except that he is naked and in desperate need. So, what about putting ourselves as the broken one, humbled, surprised, and grateful to anyone at all who will show us mercy and show up to lend a helping hand when we need it the most.
Have you ever in your life experienced such a moment of grace, of compassion, from an unexpected person. It could have happened in a hospital room, after a marriage failed, after the loss of a loved one, maybe when you found yourself unemployed. When something like this happens all that is important is how fast one can forget about the divisions and grab hold of that hand they thought or maybe even hoped they would never touch.
Your neighbour is the one who Shows up and surprises, even scandalizes you with compassion. Your neighbour is the one who challenges your categories of who is good/ bad, worthy, or unworthy. Your neighbour is the one who shocks you with a fresh face of God.
Jesus was inviting his listeners, at that time and now again us in this time, to imagine a different kind of kingdom. One that left room for divine and world-altering surprises.
All Glory be to God.