“As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if He were going farther. But they urged Him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So He went in to stay with them. When He was at the table with them, He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him” Luke 24:28-31
Jesus continues to surprise us, and recently it’s been in the lives of two young refugee men. One of these men is an 18-year-old who came to the UK with his mother and little brother last year. While he hasn’t been to church or joined a bible study, we’ve become decently close as we’ve visited his home in the hotels and he’s visited us, and even helped us move. Recently he stayed the night with us and while we were too tired to have a long conversation at night, we had a good chat in the morning where he told us that he’s starting to read the bible (in three different languages).
The other young man is a 21-year-old from Iran that arrived 1 month ago that I’ve played snooker with, tutored a bit in english, and connected with a volunteer opportunity. We were walking to his home the other day when he asked me about church. He has never been, but has had an experience with God and started to read the bible. He told me that he’s never been interested in religion before now. He showed me his tattoos saying hope and peace and how he wants new ones saying faith and patience because that is what God is teaching him in the asylum seeking process.Both of these young men remind me of Jesus’ encounter with the two people on the road to Emmaus. As they walked and talked with Jesus on the road they didn’t recognize him – even during the sermon of a lifetime (this relieves the pressure of having the “right words”)! It wasn’t until they invited him into their home, and shared a meal, that their eyes were opened and they knew Jesus. So, what happened? As Christians, we live out our faith in action, whether we are volunteering, advocating, donating, but if our actions stop there, then we are stopping short. For us to recognize Jesus, and for others to recognize Jesus, we need to make space that for human connection and friendship. For many of us, we tend to be so busy helping (with good intention) that we miss out on a mutual friendship where the roles of “the helper” and “the helped” are broken down. When we’re busy doing it’s easy to miss Jesus in our midst. Rather, it’s over coffee at our dinner tables, on the floors of our neighbours’ homes playing with the kids, in the public park sitting on a bench – these common spaces – where we’re all just ordinary people trying to be attentive to each other and to God.
This is especially true with our neighbours who are recognizing Jesus for the first time. As Jesus says “The Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.” According to Jesus, we don’t build or produce the Kingdom – we find it in the most ordinary places, and usually with the most unlikely people.
Frequently throughout the gospels, the disciples are surprised to experience the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God among the “unexpected” people – tax collectors, “unclean” women, heretic Samaritans, lepers, Roman soldiers, demon-possessed cemetery-dwellers… but Jesus showed them (and shows us today) that the Kingdom of God is good news to the social and religious outcasts of our world. Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear?
Sam serves with InnerCHANGE London, working to cultivate disciples of Jesus and develop local leaders who are marked by merciful action, transformative contemplation, and prophetic justice.