Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
It seems apparent here that Jesus is speaking to two groups of people. First, to those who care a lot about their own position but very little for that of their neighbor (the ones trampling others), He gives a stern warning. Then, He speaks to those are actually being trampled by others. To these who find themselves being ground down by others, He offers words of encouragement and an affirmation of worth.
In numerous other places in the New Testament, Jesus challenges His followers to consider the eternal significance of how sensitive and attentive we are to the needs of others. One such example is found in Matthew’s Gospel (25:31-46):
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Ouch! Who among us can read these words and not be compelled to examine our own heart? Who among us can read these words and not ask whether we have truly been sensitive to the needs of those around us? Indeed, who can read these words and not ponder just who the Lord may have placed in our path? And thus, who it is that we are expected to minister to in His name?
In response to my message, a good friend and fellow church member shared the following poem with me - one that he had first encountered years ago. It was written back in 1972 by Stevie Smith and is titled…
NOT WAVING BUT DROWNINGthought ot waving but drowning.
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.*
Not Waving but Drowning
May the Lord help us to open our eyes and actually see those around us who are in need. And as He does, may we care a little less for our position and a lot more for their condition!
*SOURCE: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/poem/175778. ill the dead one lay moaning) s much too far out all my life And not waving but drowning.