Harvard University, a cup of tea and a spot of people watching

Last November, on one chilly autumnal afternoon, having spent a couple of hours walking the historic grounds of Boston’s Harvard University, I headed to a nearby Starbucks for a much-needed refreshment (of the warm kind!). I queue and deliberate. Coffee? Hot Chocolate? Tea? Being of the British persuasion and missing a few home delights, I of course go for tea. When spending time in a coffee shop, getting the right drink is the first important decision. The next is where to sit. Looking around, I notice a space in front of a large window, outside of which people, most of whom I assume are students and professors, teem by. Perfect spot for a bit of reading, writing and people-watching. Settling down into my spot, I began to feel rather surreal to be on a site where, over the years, incredibly brilliant people have come, studied and discovered. As an archway above one of the university’s entrances assumptively declares, ‘Enter to grow in wisdom’.

Screen Shot 2013-11-02 at 15.55.38My mind then drifted to those outside. So many individuals – students, professors, shop-workers, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers – each coming from somewhere and going somewhere, each with something or someone on their mind, each living their own story. I can recall seeing one girl tying up her shoe-laces, while another man was sorting out his bags. As I sat observing these two briefly, I had this overwhelming sense of Jesus’ love for them and His desire to walk with them, to be their saviour, to be their friend – even in the more mundane aspects of life that I was witnessing. Jesus knows these two people – He knows their names, their hopes, fears, dreams, hobbies, foibles. What’s more, He loves them more than anyone else. His heart yearns – even bleeds – for them. And not just those two either, but every person who wandered by that afternoon.

The Bible records an encounter Jesus had with a rich guy. The rich guy approaches Jesus, asking what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus first makes reference to the ten commandments, which the man declares he has followed, but after being unable to place following Jesus over his earthly wealth, he walks away with sadness in his face. At one point during this conversation we’re told that ‘Jesus looked at him and loved him’. What an incredibly personal moment; Jesus looking into the face of one man and simply loving him. As the two departed, we know the rich man walked away sad, but how did Jesus feel? Deep sadness, I am sure.

And so, sitting down observing these two people I had never met before, this incredible truth – that Jesus looks into the face of every man and every woman, every boy and every girl, and loves them – dawns on me afresh. I began sipping my warm brew feeling rather amazed and humbled to be at a place of such prestige and history. And while it is good to value, respect and enjoy the places where so many people have come, studied and discovered, the overriding thought I had as I later left the coffee shop was that what is so truly amazing and humbling, is that Jesus – the image of the invisible God – humbly came to earth and walked with us, dying the cruelest of deaths and then rising again, so that He could look into the face of each and everyone of us and in love offer to us the greatest gift of all – salvation and a relationship with our creator God. The invitation is there; it’s up to us as to whether or not we accept it and follow Him.

Philip Yancey, one of my favourite authors, puts it this way:

‘What the prophets spoke about, Jesus lived. “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands,” God said in Isaiah’s day. When he visited earth in the form of a Servant, he showed that the hand of God is not too big for the smallest person in the world. It is a hand engraved with our individual names and engraved also with wounds, the cost to God of loving us so much.’

And loves us, Jesus does. Deeply, individually, personally. Me, you, those walking the grounds of Harvard University. Everyone.


I don’t normally add this, but if anyone reading doesn’t know Jesus and would like to know more or ask questions, whatever it may be, please feel free to get in touch.


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