In the Lenten Study I am doing we were discussing Jesus’ companions while on earth. That reminded me of a conversation I had with someone at one time or another. I can’t honestly remember who it was, but I do remember the conversation.
We were talking about where we would find Jesus if He walked this earth today. My friend was certain he would be found in the churches talking and sharing His stories. My first response was I hope He would not be found in our churches. She was taken back. Why on earth would you not want Him in our churches? Let me share what I shared with her.
We do find Jesus in the Temple at times teaching. There are a few places in the scripture where we find Him there. The first time we hear about this is when he was twelve. We know He had been with his parents at the Feast of the Passover which was the custom. After the feast a few days later they are leaving in a caravan and returning home. Jesus is nowhere to be found. After searching for him they return to the Temple and find him there. “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”(Luke 2:46-47) So, early on Jesus was in the Temple teaching and sharing. Mark 12:35 says this, “While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David?” In John 7 we find Jesus attending the Festival of Tabernacles when He makes an appearance, “Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?” In John 7:14-15 we see once again He has gone into the Temple to teach. I believe these were rare occasions. We know He spends time in the Temples, but where do we find Jesus most of the time?
We find Jesus in the streets walking among the crowds. While Jesus was walking toward a synagogue leader’s house to help his dying daughter, a large crowd followed him. We hear about the crowds following Him in the streets and all about town. Mark 5:24-27 “…A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, …”
We also know that Jesus ate in the homes. In these homes the people who often came and ate with Jesus were the ones the Pharisees often looked down on. “Jesus ate dinner at Matthew’s house. Many tax collectors and other bad people came and ate with Jesus and his followers. The Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with these people. The Pharisees asked Jesus’ followers, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and other bad people?” Matthew 9:10-11
Luke 19:7 says this, “All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” This is the text where Jesus went to dine with Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus invited his friends who were not liked by many of the people of that day. Many of these folks were considered sinners.
Luke 17:11-13 “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” We see Jesus not in the Temple here, but with lepers. We know these folks were often sent out to be by themselves. They could not come into town or even worship in the Temple. Jesus is with them; healing them and sharing His love with them.
There are many other scriptures that tell us Jesus was not in the Temple, but with the folks in the streets, out by the water, and in the deserts. Jesus hung out with the poor, the outcast, the lonely. Sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors, Samaritan “dogs”, women caught in adultery, lepers, cheats, theives, drunkards, idolaters, and murderers. The unclean.
When he was in the home of Matthew the Pharisees were outside complaining that Jesus was hanging out with the wrong crowd. “When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. “But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:11-13
So that brings me back to the original question, “Why do you not want Jesus to be found in your church?” If Jesus came to heal the sick and not the healthy and he shows up at my church I have to wonder if we are sick. Are we not a healthy congregation like I’d like to think we are? She immediately understood. Yes, I would love to hear Jesus teach and hear the stories He has to share, but I think I’d like to be in the crowds of people where the real teaching took place. I’d like to be out there with Jesus and see the miracles take place. I’d like to hear the conversations that take place between sinner and teacher. I just might learn something myself. I want to see healing take place, food shared and I want to hear the laughter and joy that comes from those who are not so worried about what some one might think.
So, if Jesus didn’t always hang out with the good old folks and we know he hung out with those on the margin, then where does that leave us? I am not one for giving up my Christian friends and leaving them to themselves, but I am for going out into the world and sharing Christ with those same folks Jesus did as He walked the earth. There are ways of doing this other than putting ourselves in danger. There are places we can volunteer to help those living on the margins. There are places like a coffee shop to sit and observe and develop conversations and friendships with those who don’t come to church. There are soup kitchens that need people to sit and listen and share. There are mission trips, both locally and abroad where people need to be heard and cared for. God calls us to be compassionate people. If we are willing to become compassionate and follow in Jesus’ footsteps God will guide our paths and lead us to those folks who need compassion.
Who do you hang out with? What do you really think of those Jesus hung out with? Are you a Pharisee that just can’t understand or are you a disciple of Christ that invites those who are on the margin to come and be among your friends? If Jesus came back would he find us sitting comfortably in the pews listening to His words or would He find us out among the crowds sharing His love and His stories?
Dear God: I wouldn’t want to find Jesus among the church I go to. I would want to find Him among the crowds, in the homes of sinners and looking up in the trees for those who want a glimpse of Him. I would want to see Him perform miracles, heal the sick and see just how far food can really go. You call me to be compassionate. Lead me as I learn what it means to be compassionate and where it leads me. Amen.