The Least of These

Focus Scripture – Matthew 25:34-40.

Scripture tells us that to every season there is a time and purpose under heaven. To me, that has translated to the fact that for every season there is also a song, a poem, and a scripture. That’s how I store things in my memory – replete with colors, sounds, sensations, emotions, and the theology that goes along with the event. Yes, I believe that there is theology in everything. And if you pay attention, it all comes together to contribute to my understanding of life.

For example, when significant things happen in my life, I link them to music – sometimes a song says it all. Or to a poem. Funny thing about poems – they capture the essentials of an idea and allow you to dress it up according to the times and the context. And I test everything against scripture – beautiful words of life that form the foundation on which I build my identity. Scripture is the standard, the benchmark, the plumb line against which I test all experience.

Scripture, poetry, and music are all juxtaposed with one another, amalgamated, dynamic and deeply embedded in the very fiber of my spirit. As the Holy Spirit deposited this sermon in my heart, I thought about the ways that Jesus has touched the lives of the least, the last, and the lost. I stopped by here to share some scenarios with you. I stopped by here to take an ancient truth and translate it for the modern day. I stopped by here to share the message that Jesus is the source of hope for somebody who thought they had no way out. Jesus is still healing. Jesus is always the way, the truth, and the light. I stopped by here to share some poetry, some music, and some scripture – not necessarily in that order.

Let me share an illustration: You can’t hide the truth from Jesus.

During the Harlem Renaissance, Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote a poem he entitled “We Wear the Mask.” He starts out by saying:

“We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, –“

He continues:

“We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

To Thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh, the clay is vile

Beneath our feed, and long the mile;

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask.”

When I think about Jesus’ interaction with the least, the last, and the lost in light of this poem, I can’t help but think of the Samaritan Woman at the well, as told in John 4:4-26. Let me summarize the story:

Jesus was at a point on his journey where he had to pass through Samaria. In doing so, he passed through a little town called Sychar. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus had been traveling all morning and was tired from the journey. So, he sat down beside the well – it was around noon.

Soon a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water, and Jesus asked her to give him a drink. She grew suspicious of this – because in their culture men didn’t talk to women, Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans, and they treated women as inferior.

“How can you ask me for a drink?” the woman asked.

So, Jesus explained it to her. And I’m paraphrasing here: In today’s jargon, he might have said to the woman:

“Let’s say the tables were turned. Let’s assume that I was no ordinary Jew. Let’s assume that I was sent by God. And let’ assume you knew who I am. Under those circumstances, if you asked me for a drink, I would have given it to you without question. But it would have been living water.

The woman was a bit confused. “Living water? Where can I get this living water? You don’t even have anything to draw with, and the well is deep.”

Taking off his mask and revealing his divine nature, Jesus cleared up a few things for this woman. He might have said something like:

“I’m not talking about water from a physical well. Whoever drinks that kind of water is just going to get thirsty again. No. I’m talking about a different kind of water. When people drink the water I give, they will never be thirsty again. The water I give quenches your spirit. When you drink of it, it does something inside of you. It becomes a spring of water, welling up to eternal life.”

Although it took her a while to wrap her mind around what Jesus was staying, she understood the logic in it. But she still failed to see the bigger picture. That’s because she was wearing a mask, thinking she could hide her true self from Jesus.

“Go tell your husband, and then come back,” Jesus told her.

“I have no husband,” the woman admitted. She was probably a little bit embarrassed.

You see, Jesus had seen beneath the mask she was wearing – the cover of respectability. Here she comes to the public well at noon – long after the other women had gathered their water and gone home to their families. Why didn’t the woman draw her water in the morning before the scorching sun started to heat things up? Was she avoiding contact with the other women? Was she afraid of facing their scorn? Was she ashamed that she had been drifting in and out of some shallow relationships with the men in her life?

Jesus saw past her mask – you know, the mask that “grins and lies.” He saw her for who she was. He spied beneath the surface and saw that although she was not adhering strictly to the laws of her forefathers, she had a desire deep down inside to worship the Father “in spirit and in truth.”

You see, as Marvin Sapp might have put it, Jesus saw the best in her when everyone else around could only see the worst in her. He expressed his love for this woman who was among the least, the last, and the lost of her society. And in doing so, he quenched her thirst from the fountain of living water – you know the fountain that is free to all, the fountain that is a healing stream, the fountain that never runs dry. And she ran off to tell somebody about her quenching, her conversation, and her revelation that Jesus is the Messiah.

 

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