“Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain . . . a funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son. . . When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion” – Luke 7:11-17 (NLT)
I like this story because it shows how Jesus sees opportunities when others don’t even know He is there. It also shows Jesus is prepared to meet the needs of those around Him, and is even looking for people He can touch. And that’s where this story starts to bother me.
I sometimes think I took too many psychology classes in college. One of the primary teachings among counselors is you cannot help a person unless they want to be helped. And for the most part, this is true. Some people do not want help, and trying to help them anyway ignores Jesus’ teaching about throwing our pearls towards pigs and our sacred advice to dogs who will only bite us back for our efforts (Matthew 7:6).
Still, Jesus saw the opportunities to minister when they presented themselves. Even though the widow may not have known who He was, and may have thought He was just another face in the crowd, Jesus knew this was a divine moment. The widow never begged and groveled and tore at the hem of Jesus’ garment, pleading with Him to raise her one and only son from the dead. Nevertheless, Jesus stopped the procession and ministered to them both.
When you read the Gospels, you’ll see numerous times Jesus seemed to be on the lookout for opportunities to show His love for people by His actions. Mark 3:1-3 tells us how Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath in the synagogue. The man didn’t go to be healed, but it seems Jesus went with healing on His mind. In John 5, Jesus approached the paralytic at the pool near the Sheep Gate and asked him, “Do you want to get well?” The paralyzed man didn’t seek Jesus; Jesus sought the man and found a way to meet his needs.
I must confess that I don’t always look for opportunities to serve the people around me. Too often, someone from my church has to tell me of a need and then we all huddle around and try to figure out a way we can meet it. That feels too much like the church is playing the role of an intermediary, not letting (or teaching) people to see a need and fill it themselves.
I need to spend more time allowing Jesus to show me where people really are, what they are struggling with and how He can use me to show them His love. Jesus sees all the needs in the universe, and He is waiting for people like me to open my eyes and see the opportunities that are right in front of me.
I want to be more like Jesus at this funeral procession. He saw the crowd, but He looked beyond it and met the need of the one. If I’ll simply open my eyes to the people around me, I’m sure I won’t have to look long before I’ll find someone who could use my help. I think I’ll stop worrying about the opportunities I don’t see, and start concentrating on the ones I do see.