Many years ago, back when I was in 8th grade, I was at the White House, and the group I was with stood on the lawn while the President of the United States walked out onto the lawn and boarded his helicopter. However, I was too far back in the crowd to see him personally. Being a little taller than the other kids that I was traveling with, I offered to boost one of them onto my shoulders, so he could see better. As a result, I got pictures of the President on my camera (which my friend was able to take from his elevated angle), but never actually saw him myself.
Along the same lines, there’s a big parade each year in the city where I live, where a lot of celebrities can typically be seen, waving from the back of nice cars. Despite the fact that participants aren’t allowed to throw candy (certainly the reason that I looked forward to parades as a kid), people will set up their front-row parade-watching “reservations” the night before the parade begins. Some stake out their “claim” with lawn chairs, while others will actually purchase a ticket for seats on bleachers next to the parade route.
We like to be in front. Generally, in a situation like this, those in the front row are prepared, pushy, or politely proactive. They have reserved, forced, or excused themselves to a place where they can get a good view.
However, when we are in front, sometimes we can be a little selfish. We may feel entitled to our position, especially if we got there by being clever, foresighted, or even by purchasing a spot. It’s easy to become blind and deaf to those “second-row” people behind us: after all, “out of sight, out of mind”.
In the 18th chapter of Luke (see Luke 18:35-43 for the entire account), a blind man, who was begging by the side of the road, heard that Jesus was passing by, and called out to Him. Those who already had a good view – whether through being prepared, forcing their way to the front of the crowd, or simply by virtue of being able to see – were disrupted a little bit by his yelling.
“Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Luke 18:39 NLT
I imagine that their bubble of excitement (in getting to see Jesus) was popped as this man called out. Despite being in front, they could no longer ignore or block out everyone else in the back who was scrapping for a better view around the other residents of the “front row”. (Note that the record of Zacchaeus meeting Jesus – also from the back of the crowd – appears in the next chapter of Luke. I wonder if some of the same people were in the crowd on both occasions, and observed the parallels between these two situations.)
If we continue to read (see Luke 18:35-43), we find that Jesus stopped, talked with the man, and then healed him from his blindness. Everyone who was strong (and sighted) enough to get out in front of others, well, they were forced to let someone from the back make his way up to Jesus Himself, and listen to a personal conversation between the Savior and someone who needed healing.
The fact is, God takes care of those whose livelihood is dependent on others. He seems to have a special place in his heart for the poor, the marginalized, and the infirm. However, I believe that He expects us to have that same heart, and sometimes calls upon us to be the instrument by which others receive God’s care.
“You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.
“You must not exploit a widow or an orphan. If you exploit them in any way and they cry out to me, then I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will blaze against you, and I will kill you with the sword. Then your wives will be widows and your children fatherless.
Exodus 22:21-24 NLT
As a result, If we happen to be in the “front” – even if we feel that we got there through our own hard work, self-sacrifice, or righteousness – let us not forget those who are seeking to see Jesus. We might be called to step aside so that someone else can see Jesus directly, or we might be called upon (like four friends on a roof, see Luke 5:18-19) to actually help another soul get to Jesus – through the crowd and the noise – when he or she lacks the ability to see the way.