The recent decision by Starbucks to allow the homeless to sit at their tables and use their restrooms triggered a national debate. Some expressed concern that the homeless would soil the tables and restrooms. Others saw it as an act of compassion. I smiled because I realized Jesus, if he were here today, would have a spot at Starbucks to enjoy an espresso or latte with friends after washing his hands and face. Jesus had no pillow, bed or roof over his head. He slept under stars or in the home of a friend.
Jesus once told a story about a man who hosted a banquet and ordered his servant: “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame . . . . Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full” (Luke 14:13-21).
The downcast and weak in ancient Israel knew Jesus would protect them. For instance, on the road to Jericho, when the crowds tried to silence two blind men who were crying out for help, Jesus stopped and healed them (Matthew 20:29-34). While dining in the home of a Pharisee, he defended a reputedly sinful woman who anointed his feet with her tears and expensive perfume (Luke 7:36-50). Another woman, caught in adultery and about to be stoned, found safety in his words and forgiveness in his love (John 8:1-11).
After John the Baptist was thrown in jail, he sent messengers to Jesus with a question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Jesus answered, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Luke 7:18-21). Jesus declared that his identity was proven by his ministry, not among the “powerful,” but the neediest of Israel.
If you happen to be in a Starbucks and see a homeless man or woman, offer them a coffee, sandwich and a conversation. Who knows, maybe that homeless person will be Jesus. After all, it was Jesus who said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40).