The sculpture pictured above of a “homeless” Jesus (photo by WCNC-NBC Charlotte, was recently unveiled outside St. Alban’s Episcopal church in Davidson, NC.  It evoked reactions from townspeople and passersby.  One woman said the image of a homeless man sleeping on a park bench was so realistic that she called the police because of concerns for the safety of the community.  A man was quoted by WCNC news as saying the following:

“…My complaint is not about the art-worthiness or the meaning behind the sculpture. It is about people driving into our beautiful, reasonably upscale neighborhood and seeing an ugly homeless person sleeping on a park bench. It is also about walking by this sculpture at night and passing within inches of the grim reaper. These are the impressions that this sculpture gives. I have stepped over actual homeless people sleeping on a sidewalk in New York City and not been as creeped out as I am walking past this sculpture.” – Davidson resident

I appreciate concern for safety and one’s community.  If worried about safety, calling police is the proper thing to do.  However, it disheartens me that neither person expressed concern for the person they believed to be a homeless man.  Both were so concerned about their own discomfort and the positive image they wanted others to see, that they missed the opportunity to create a positive image of their own by showing care and compassion for someone in need.  Even if they asked a police officer to intervene, imagine how incredible it would have felt to know that they didn’t just reach out to another human being, they responded to Jesus!  Sadly, people responded in similar ways back in the days of Jesus.

It makes me wonder, if I happened upon that park bench, how would I have reacted?

In fairness to the people of Davidson, there are those who speak favorably about the sculpture and support its presence in their community.

This artwork and the people’s reactions to it remind me of the following scriptures from the Bible, Matthew 25:31-26:2, where Jesus said:

     “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.  Then the King will say to those on the right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you fed me.  I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink.  I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing.  I was sick, and you cared for me.  I was in prison, and you visited me.’

Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you/  Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality?  Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will tell them, ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his demons!  For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me.  I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me anything to drink.  I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me no clothing.  I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and not help you?’  And he will answer, ‘I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’  And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life. 

     When Jesus finished saying these things, he said to his disciples, ‘As you know, the Passover celebration begins in two days, and I, the Son of Man, will be betrayed and crucified.”

As we begin the Season of Lent on this Ash Wednesday, a day of solemn reflection to remind us of the crucifixion of Christ, I think about the “homeless” Jesus on the park bench and am brought to humility. Do I recognize Jesus in my life?  When confronted by those who are sick, homeless, in need, or oppressed by the prisons of their lives, do I respond in ways that are pleasing to Jesus?  Jesus died as a sacrifice for the sins we commit.  He gave His life for us so that we, as sinners, would not perish, but have life everlasting in the glorious place called Heaven.  For Christ did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. (John 3:16-17)  Jesus suffered a painful death so that all who believe in Him can be freed from the death of sin, so that we can be forgiven and have new life in Him! During this time of Lent, what can I offer in return for the sacrifice He made for us?

Inspired by the “homeless” Jesus on the park bench and the reactions to His likeness, I can begin by making an offering of time, spending time in the Bible to reflect on the life, death, resurrection and teachings of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.  I don’t want to arrive at the time of judgment and have to ask, “When did I see you, Jesus?”

FYI:  When Jesus left home to begin his ministry, he became a homeless man.

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head.”   (Luke 9:58) 

For more about the Season of Lent, please go to the archives in the left sidebar and go to February 2012 for post titled “Season of Lent”.