It was around 5pm Macedonian time on a Wednesday evening when I saw Jesus. I stood in the midst of a crowd of people, my long brown hair and olive complexion made me unnoticeable to the untrained eye. It was only when I opened my mouth that people discovered I was American. He had no reason to pick me out in the crowd, no reason to walk right up to me, but he did. I saw him out of the corner of my eye, I watched as he methodically made his way through the crowd right up to me. And then he stood there. I looked down upon his crooked frame, his droopy eye and mouth and wondered what he wanted from me. Was it money? Food? I wasn’t sure as I looked at him in puzzlement.
He reached out his hand to me and motioned for me to hold it. I was unsure at first and looked around nervously, by this time everyone’s eyes were on me and this small man, watching to see what I would do. I reached out my hand and held his in mine. He smiled at me, a smile full of joy and life. Next thing I knew we were fist bumping and high-fiving and having a grand ol’ time. The time came when he had to go and the busses were coming. He looked down at his withered hand that rested in mine and pulled it up to his mouth. His eyes looked questioningly at me as he kissed his hand and motioned for me to do the same. I looked upon that hand now covered in slobber, the slobber of a stranger and for a second I panicked. I hardly hug people let alone kiss their hands, he was asking a lot of me, he was asking that I step out of every comfort zone I ever had, that I bow down in front of a crowd of people and kiss his hand. My flesh wanted to say no, but my spirit felt great love and compassion for this man. And so in that moment I remembered the words of Jesus.
Do you love me Peter?
Yes Lord of course I do! –I answered
Tend my sheep.
And so I looked down into his eyes, I bowed down, and lifted his hand to my lips.
His face lit up with a thankful smile and he skipped through the crowd down the street smiling, and waving.
The picture of that scene is as vivid in my mind as it was that first day.
Each day as I walk the streets if I see a stranger I invite them in, I carry food for the hungry and water for the thirsty because “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Because as Mother Theresa said “Each of them is Jesus in disguise”
I am reminded of the stories in the Bible when Jesus touched lepers, and bleeding women, when he touched the lame and the sick, the dead, and the oppressed. He touched them and more often than not they left his presence skipping and joyfully praising the Lord. I’m sure they looked much like that man did when he skipped happily away from me. We have the touch of love, the power of the Father running through us, we have the ability to touch lives and change them with the gift of truth and love. Love the unloved, step out of your comfort zones, feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, bow down and kiss the hand of a stranger, for each of these you do as if you were doing them for Jesus. The Gospel is powerful it is shared through words and moments like that, through care and through the power of a touch and interaction with the people of God.