A devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find the complete archive here.
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
I am not much of a golfer, although I have been known to enjoy hitting balls at the driving range from time to time. I’ve just never quite had the patience, the time, or the funds, to invest in a sport where the majority of your time is spent walking from one place to another. That said, several years ago my brother-in-law scored passes to the practice round of a PGA Tour event and invited me to join. Although my knowledge of professional golf is about on par with my limited experience playing the sport (see what I did there?), I was in awe at the sheer skill and athleticism of golfers I had never before seen or even heard of. On the 17th hole par-3, rather than trying for a hole in one, the players instead wowed the crowds by hitting balls in such a way so that they would skip across the top of the water before settling onto the opposite green. After spending a little too much time in the late July sun, a rumor began to spread through the gallery that Tiger Woods was about to hit the course. Although he had recently struggled with injury and other issues, the year before Tiger had won Player of the Year and he was still one of the most famous athletes in the world, and a mob gathered around the first tee, awaiting his arrival before he even stepped out of the clubhouse. Naturally, we joined the energized crowd, standing at times just a few feet away, eavesdropping on the scuttlebutt between golfer and caddie. Although we didn’t get to talk to him, or even get his autograph, we left the course that evening just happy to be able to say one day (like today) that we had seen one of the greatest golfers who ever lived.
After the winds subsided, Jesus and the disciples arrived at the shore and as soon as their feet hit solid ground they were instantly mobbed. Although on the other side of the lake Jesus had rebuffed a very real populist attempt to make Him king, His arrival in Gennesaret generated explosive excitement, bordering on hysteria. By far the best thing to emerge from Nazareth, Jesus was unmistakeable throughout the region of Galilee and every moment with Him brought with it the opportunity to witness something truly amazing. Frenetic messengers raced all through the region to let everyone know where Jesus was at every moment.
Jesus’ reputation of miraculous works preceded Him, and people came to Him from everywhere, following Him wherever He went. The diseased and the lame were dragged in on their mats, lining the streets and the markets in every village, town, and byway, desperately longing for just a sliver of His power. They begged Jesus to grant them permission to just momentarily grasp the edge of His coat, or the fringe of His tassels, that they might be healed like the woman in Capernaum. He did and, incredibly, all who touched Him were healed, every last one.
With such a demand for attention it might be easy to say that the common folk “got Jesus” while the religious and political elites did not, but that is perhaps a bit too simplistic. Yes, those with grave physical and material needs experienced firsthand the mercy of the Lord, but just as with the disciples, we see little evidence that anyone truly comprehended Him. When they looked at Jesus they didn’t see a supernatural Sovereign to whom they must yield, but a mystical miracle worker who could give them everything they want on their terms. As long as the blessings continued, Jesus had their undying attention and affection, but when the way became difficult, and Jesus began to make demands upon them, they turned on Him in an instant. Many of the same people who were clamoring to crown Him king just days later were cheering on His crucifixion.
This all leads to the question: Where does our true hope lie? It is easy to praise God when He gives us everything we ask for, but what happens when He does not? When everything in life falls apart, when everything we have worked for all comes crashing down around us, where do we turn? Do we only make demands of Jesus or have we submitted ourselves to His demands on us? Do we recognize Him for who He truly is?
The apostle Paul was not a man who received everything he wanted from Jesus. In fact, when he first met Jesus he was not comforted with compassion but confronted by biting accusation. Like the crowds in Galilee, Paul thought Jesus was just a man, a mystic who had somehow led astray delusional disciples. Later, in his letter to the Colossians, Paul wrote of Jesus: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Jesus was not created to satisfy the desires of man, but man was created by Him, through Him, and for Him.
Today, and every day, we are reminded not of what Jesus can do for us, not how He can bless our plans or ensure the success of our platforms and agendas, but of who He is. He is, and always has been, the High King of Heaven. He is, and always has been, the Author of Life. He is, and always has been, the Name that is above every name. And yet, He stooped low, coming to His creation, not on a warhorse with a sword in His hand, but on a cross with nails in His hands and a spear in His side. He came to us, that we might come to Him.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we praise You for who You are. All that we know in this world can be taken away from us, but if we have You, we have everything. Remind us today of Your spectacular power and Your amazing grace. You took our sin and punishment upon Yourself that we might know the greatest joy in the universe, the pleasure of being known and loved by You. In Your Holy name we pray, Amen.