“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. . . .”
— Matthew 25:35
The Russian author Leo Tolstoy wrote a story about Martin the cobbler.
One evening Martin hears the Lord speak to him, saying that he will come to Martin’s shop the next day. Martin is filled with expectation, and as the day goes by, he watches and waits anxiously. While he is waiting for the Lord, he notices an old soldier suffering from the cold and invites him in to share a cup of tea. Soon a struggling young mother comes by, and he fits her shoeless child with a warm pair of boots and gives her some coins for food. He defends a poor young boy caught trying to steal an apple.
By the day’s end, he is disappointed that he has not yet met the Lord. But then a voice comes to him, saying, “Martin, did you not recognize me?” And then he sees the soldier and the mother and boy, and Martin understands: Jesus has appeared to him through the encounters with people he has helped throughout the day.
Tolstoy’s story is inspired by his reading of Matthew 25. Here we learn that God identifies with the poor so completely that an act of kindness done to them is considered by God to be an act of kindness done to him. When we remember that each person is a child of God bearing God’s image, we too will recognize Jesus in the faces and lives of the people we meet.
Lord, you have made yourself visible to me in the faces of friends and strangers alike. Forgive me when I am too short-sighted to notice, and help me to keep my eyes open. Amen.