A man exiting a grocery store was very surprised when a rather good-looking and perky young lady greeted him cheerfully by saying, "Good evening!" Her face was beaming. At least she was smiling until he gave her that "Who are you?" look. He couldn't remember having ever seen her before. Then she obviously realized that a mistake had been made and apologized. She explained, "Oh, I'm so sorry. When I first saw you I thought you were the father of one of my children." She walked on her way into the store.
The man was left staring dumbfounded after her. More than a bit puzzled, he thought to himself, "What is the world coming to? An attractive woman who doesn't even keep track of what the father of her children look like!" However, he was also a bit flattered that he might resemble one of her former suitors, but also hoped that nobody overheard her saying that she mistook him for being the father of one of her children.
A bit stunned, he walked to his car. He still did not realize, of course, that....she was a second grade teacher.
A case of mistaken identity. Have you ever done that? You see someone in the store or on the street that you think you know and you call out and wave only to realize that it's not really them at all. First glances can be deceiving.
I've done the same thing spiritually, too. I've judged people at a glance as being stuck-up only to find out later on that they are only shy. I've judged people for their irritability only to find out later what burdens they had been carrying that caused them to be a bit short with me. I've judged some people as "hopeless sinners" only to discover in time a humble heart and a spirit that wants to surrender to God.
This is what the Pharisees in the time of Jesus just couldn't seem to understand. They couldn't get past the first appearances. They couldn't get beyond the outside to look at the heart. And they didn't much care to get to know any of "those people" long enough to learn anything about their problems, their struggles, or their heart.
"For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16:7).
Father, help me to take a "second look", to learn to look beyond the outward appearance, to look at the heart of the people around me. In Jesus' name, amen.