An Authentic Impact
When I was about six-years-old, my dad took my brother and me to our very first major league baseball game. That afternoon at Tigers Stadium is just one of only a handful of my childhood memories that I can still recall. That memory is still larger than life to me. It amazes me still to this day the tickets my dad was able to get for that game. As we walked inside that giant stadium, my dad led us to three front row seats next to the home team’s dugout. We had the best seats in the stadium! Not knowing any better, I constantly found myself peering over the dugout wall. My dad kept pulling me back from the dugout, but I don’t think he realized how much fun I was having waving to all the players!
On one such occasion, a Tigers’ coach, Alex Grammas, saw me and came over to chat. In hindsight, it must have been humorous for the people sitting behind us to see a little boy standing on his seat boosting him just enough to peek into the dugout. Just as the inning ended, Grammas reached over and handed one of the game balls to me from inside the dugout. You can imagine how excited I was! I still have that baseball and still remember that coach who took just a few minutes to make an impression on a six-year-old little boy.
Undoubtedly, that coach had more important things to worry about (the game), more important people to talk to (the players), and certainly taking a few moments for a little boy was of no real benefit to him. But, 24 years later, it remains as one of my fondest childhood memories. That baseball is a reminder of the need to step away from the “important” things I’m doing to impact others I come in contact with.
In the fast-paced world we live in, I find myself overlooking opportunities to make an authentic personal connection. I mention “authentic” because it is that real or genuine impact that Jesus had on those he came in contact with. Jesus would often send away multitudes of people to make a connection with just one single person. Quite often, that i person was never someone of influence or prestige. In other words, Jesus spent His most valuable time impacting people that others ignored.
Undoubtedly, Jesus could have had daily preaching engagements to thousands. In Matthew 14, He spoke to well over 5,000 people. But, that wasn’t His goal. If you take a look at verse 22 of that same passage, Jesus quickly sent away the crowds of people after He spoke. Why? He had a desire to focus His attention toward just one person—Peter. In the verses to follow, we find Peter walking on water towards the Savior.
This wasn’t just an isolated incident. We can see Jesus focused on one person instead of a multitude of people throughout the Gospels. These weren’t the influential or popular people of the day either. Those whom Jesus influenced had nothing really to offer Him. And this was pretty obvious even to the people around him…
“And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?”
Think about the type of people and amount of people Jesus regularly associated with. He made friends with the outcasts of society; chose only twelve people to closely “follow” Him; and often singled out just one of the twelve—Peter. Jesus would by no means be considered a success based on these numbers. And that’s just it. . . He wasn’t trying to be. His goal was to impact the lives of those who needed it most. And by accomplishing this, Jesus provided a tremendous pattern of just how we can make an authentic impact in the lives of others.
1. Jesus took time for individual people
Remember Zacchaeus in Luke 19? He was the short man trying his best to meet Jesus. The Bible said “he could not for the press.” The crowd was so massive that he gave up on trying to meet the Savior, but instead opted for “Plan B” and climbed up a tree just to catch a glimpse of the Savior. Despite the multitude vying for Christ’s attention, Jesus looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.” Jesus looked past the mass of people surrounding Him to focus His attention on the needs of one man.
In John 4, Jesus determined to go through Samaria. Often the Jews would take a massive detour when traveling to Galilee and cross the Jordan River twice just to avoid going through Samaria. But, Jesus had a purpose to pass through Samaria that day and it was evident by just how motivated He was to get there. Upon arrival, the Bible says, “Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.” By noon the sun was beating down on the Savior as He sat down to rest from hours of hiking. It was at a time when He was tired, fatigued, and thirsty that He found an opportunity to impact the woman at the well.
Taking time for people takes sacrifice and effort. Often, it isn’t convenient and never seems to “fit” into our schedule. But, consider what would have happened if the sinner in search of the Savior was not afforded just a few minutes at the well or was ignored (or dare I say laughed at) for scaling a tree trying to get someone’s attention. I’m sure I’ve passed by scores of people like this because I simply didn’t take the time to notice.
2. Jesus wasn’t concerned about others’ opinions
That crowd or “press” that gathered around Jesus became upset very quickly. When the Savior directed his attention to the Publican perched in the tree, the people were outraged. The Bible says in Luke 19:7, “And when they saw it [Jesus directing his undivided attention toward Zacchaeus], they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.” Jesus didn’t even flinch at what the crowd thought as he ditched them to impact Zacchaeus.
The well was the water cooler of the ancient times. It was a central gathering place where women met up with friends and acquaintances to talk about the latest events of the day. Yet, the woman that Jesus met with that day was by herself. Why? She was an outcast. As a Samaritan, she was despised by the Jews. As a sinner, she was ignored by her own people. But, it is obvious that Jesus didn’t care what others thought of Him by associating with the woman people didn’t want to have anything to do with.
Unfortunately, the people that are most in need are those most ignored. Jesus couldn’t have cared less what people thought of Him by associating with these outcasts. Helping others isn’t always the popular thing to do, but it is the right thing to do. Who have you or I refused to associate with or befriend because of what we thought others would think of us?
3. Jesus showed compassion for individuals
The Bible says that Zacchaeus was a rich man. No doubt he could have had any possession he desired, but that came at price. As chief of the Publicans, he was hated by his fellow Jews. Zacchaeus was a traitor by showing more allegiance to the Romans than to his own people. There came a time when there was something he needed that money couldn’t buy. Yet, Jesus didn’t care how others viewed Zacchaeus. He helped Zacchaeus in his time of need.
The woman at the well thought she was pulling a quick one on the Son of God by evading the truth of the matter He posed in John 4:16. But, Jesus carefully and compassionately recognized her issue instead of simply embarrassing her. By doing this, Jesus was directing her attention toward her permanent spiritual need instead of her temporary physical need. Jesus was patient with the Samaritan woman in helping her understand her great need and showing her how it could be made right.
Jesus’ example is a reminder of the importance of investing in people. No matter if it’s the kid stepping off the bus to go to Sunday school, the well dressed executive stepping out of his Mercedes, or the single-mom corralling her kids out of a minivan, there are people that cross our paths everyday that need only five minutes of our time to be impacted for eternity. What can you and I do this week to model the example that Christ has so perfectly set?