Never judge a book by its cover

Mark 9:30-37

“Don’t judge a book by its cover, but by its maker”

One Friday night my friend and I went to the hotel for a couple of drinks. While there, the TV was playing the football game and an elderly lady, noticing that we were watching it came over and started talking about the game. We talked about how well her side were playing and the players and so forth. We were very generous in our comments because they were actually playing very good football. After about twenty minutes she asked “why we didn’t go to the game?” After we replied that we barracked for other teams (one being the other local team which was basically the arch enemy), and although neither of these teams was playing that night against her team, without a word she got up and left.

We found it quite humorous that one minute we seemed like old friends and the next, well I’m not sure but we certainly weren’t worth associating with. While this was not hurtful, it did show how easily we can fall into the them and us attitude. Upper class and lower class, state against state such as NSW and say Victoria, school against school and so forth, we could go on forever. Most of these discussions are either friendly banter or loose talk and at most times not meant to physically or mentally to scar. But the thing is that making an assessment on people can become so part of our everyday living that we don’t even know we are doing it. If we saw a business person in a suit standing next to a scruffy type person, without speaking a word to either of them we would still probably make judgments regarding them without even realising it.+

Firstly, to judge a book by its cover can be very misleading. Two true stories. A very wealthy business man every two years updated his $200K sports car at the same car dealer. One year though, he went in to do so with his daggy cloths that he had been doing some painting in and just couldn’t get the salesperson to basically give him the time of day. In the end he gave up and sent them a letter explaining the situation and that from now on, his continued business will be supported elsewhere. A costly mistake for that dealership and probably more so, the salesperson.

Alternatively, a person I knew who would help out in a van giving food to the needy said quite often people in suits driving expensive cars stop to get food for their families dinner. Basically all show and just keeping up appearances because they feel they have to or because of pride.

But secondly and more importantly, even if the expected stereo type was true, should that dictate how we treat that person? Well, in one way I would say yes. If approached by someone down and out should we try and help them with food, clothing or money-absolutely. As a Christian or non-Christian that is the right thing to do and there are many, many wonderful people and organisations that do just that and we so should all of us when the situation arises. We know from Matthew 25 Jesus thoughts on charity and kindness:

‘’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; naked, and you clothed Me.

These are the Christian things to do, and simply the right things to do.

In today’s Gospel the irony abounds as we hear that after Jesus has told the disciples of His forthcoming death and resurrection, they are arguing about who among them is the greatest. They have well and truly missed the point-so Jesus helps them understand by talking a child in His hands and saying “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me”.

To us today, that doesn’t seem so challenging-until we get the context.

In those times, unless a person was wealthy they had little chance of a life other than what they were born into. Even then, if they improved their economic status they still could not break into the elitist circle as a person’s standing or rank was governed by the person’s family tree or birth linage. Further, a child was considered especially powerless. We’ve heard the term seen and not heard, then it was more like not seen and not heard. Alternatively, the Rabbis were seen as like the heroes of the day, and while they did teach humility, they expected their followers to serve them.

Given this we see the situation as the disciples did. Being that with this class type society, for them the chosen ones of Christ to be arguing who is the greatest-or of their rank is normal. They were conditioned to think that way by society, like we are conditioned to make assessments of people by their dress, job or the like.

So when Jesus says “to be first you must be last and a servant of all he” it would have been basically like talking in a foreign language and then continuing with “whoever receives one such child (the bottom of the rung) in my name receives me” is stating that in receiving or accepting the lowly, they are in fact accepting him because the custom of the day was that a person’s agent accurately represented the one who sent him and was supported by the sender’s full authority.

Jesus is not just talking of good works of feeding the lowly; he is talking about total acceptance as you would of your own loved ones.

So what of us, let’s return to Mathew 25:

‘’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; naked, and you clothed Me. I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to 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? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

Most of these are do-able under a tick sheet type of good works, but that one line “I was a stranger and you invited me in” takes it to a whole new level. “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me”.

Jesus it not just talking of tasks, he is talking about total acceptance-as if it were Jesus himself. Is this not somewhat challenging? Are we to go down the river at midnight and invite the homeless into our houses? Or to give up our jobs so we can systematically visit every person in hospital or prison so that we can stand before Jesus and say yes, when I saw you sick or in prison I came to you, that yes I fed you, clothed you and took you in. Indeed some people are given these gifts, but what do the people Jesus is talking of in Matthew say? not yes, but a quiz-ickle “did I”?

This is more like meeting Jesus on our last day moment and when he says “well done my good and trusted servant” you respond with “I was? as if to say that’s news to me, when?”

Let’s hear it from St. Paul near his end: “I have run the good race, I have kept the faith”. Through our lives, there are times where we have been or will hungry, outcasts, down trodden and judged, suffered pain, loss and hardship, yet in still remaining in faith-Jesus says welcome home my good and trusted servant. Oh and yes, I have some people here to meet you.

You look at these people and say sorry, but I cannot remember any of you. Then the first replies, I was sleeping on the grass one morning, and you said hello before I saw you enter church. Another says I was serving you in a shop and was having a terrible time, you seemed to see that I was upset and when you left you said God Bless You. And others told of small seemingly incidental moments that lead to other moments that eventually allowed them to see and accept Jesus.

How did we first come to faith, without even knowing it. How do we serve Jesus, yes there will be times where we will have to make a stand, have courage and put it all on the line, but often we serve him without even knowing it, by being a mother or father, an employee or employer and by trusting in our acceptance by God the Father because of our Saviour Jesus, by accepting in trust those he brings before us, by not judging them by their cover, their appearance, rank or lack of rank, but by their maker, our maker, God The Father. Amen.


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