My house sits on a corner in my neighborhood. I have neighbors across the street, diagonally, next door and over the back fence. I know my immediate neighbors, but not the one four doors down. Yet, they are my neighbors, too. If our lots were 60 feet wide, that neighbor four doors down would be within 100 yards of me. Remember that distance.
For my neighbors and me, life is busy. It seems to never stop. Family members, work, chores, volunteerism and maintaining the house fill our days. And, everyone wants time for recreation or entertainment, as well. Most people have more on their “to do” list than they can fit into their schedule. Such a lifestyle increases the chance that people can be overlooked. People overlook even those most important to them.
Overlooking someone is subtle. The person overlooked may be nearby and go unnoticed. In a more severe case of “overlooking,” busy people actually see a person, but do not realize that person is someone they know. So, they ignore him or her and continue on like no one was there.
The affliction of overlooking others is common and easy to suffer without realizing it. People constantly overlook spouses, children, parents, friends, coworkers, and others in their lives. In every case, the other people are there and visible - nearby. Somehow, they just get missed.
What would it be like if Jesus were just 100 yards away - 300 feet? What would I do if He were standing at the house four doors down? Would I notice Him standing there? In my haste or preoccupation, would I notice it was Him?
Think about this. Believers can overlook Jesus. They can overlook God’s presence and activity in their lives. It not only can happen; it does happen - all the time.
Beyond busyness, other experiences can also cause saints to miss God’s presence. Some Christians are disappointed with their situation and circumstances. Others are angry at the experiences they have encountered. Disinterest and spiritual apathy can also cause a saint to overlook God. Desires can cause trouble, too. Even success and happiness can cause saints to overlook God. All of these things, and others, can distract believers from the truth and reality that God is with us - Emmanuel!
Why was 300 feet a significant number?
The apostle John told a story, in the last chapter of his Gospel (John 21:1-13), about seven close followers of Jesus who were just 300 feet from Jesus, yet they saw Him and did not recognize Him. They overlooked Jesus. Simon Peter was among them. John was, too, along with Thomas, Nathaniel and others. Imagine actually seeing and interacting with the resurrected Messiah and, then, overlooking Him. It happened then and still happens today.
Sometimes, you and I need help noticing and identifying God’s presence and work. At Jesus’ birth, God sent an angel to help the shepherds know that Jesus had arrived nearby. In John’s story, Jesus called out across the water to those seven close followers who were fishing in a small boat. In both cases, ordinary people did not realize or know that Jesus was nearby.
I write neither to fault anyone nor to stir guilt in anyone who has overlooked Jesus or is overlooking Him right now. I know too well the experiences of living through a whole day or two or three without thinking about Jesus or noticing God’s work around me. Rather, I write to draw attention to God, who continually pursues and approaches saints because they still wander - even though each one is fully saved by his or her faith in Jesus.
At the end of the Great Commission and in other places, Jesus was clear about God’s continuing presence with every believer. He said, “I am with you always.” Right now Jesus is watching, working, and drawing the attention of every saint. Sometimes, He calls out to them across the water because they have overlooked Him.
When I think about Jesus being only four doors down, John’s story seems so much more real to me. I even think about asking God’s help to see Him. Every saint could use that help from time to time. I am so glad God offers it.
Think about it. Are you constantly aware of Jesus’ presence? Do you continually see God’s work around you? If not, take a look around. Ask God for help seeing. Jesus could be standing just 300 feet away - just four doors down.