A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.
Friday, September 4, 2020
Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.
It had already been one of the longest days of my life. Much earlier that morning, I awoke to the nauseating sounds and smells of stomach illness, popularly known as Montezuma’s Revenge, emanating from the bathroom down the hall. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for some travelers to the Caribbean to be stricken by the sickness, but when half of our mission team failed to come down for breakfast I discovered we had a big problem on our hands. It was only the midpoint of our week in the Dominican Republic working on the construction of an orphanage and conducting remote medical clinics for some of the poorest of the poor in the rural countryside, but our best laid plans were unravelling quickly. In order to better keep tabs on the ill, we called an audible and took our skeleton medical crew just a few short blocks away to the local hospital, where we were free to borrow several unused rooms to run our free clinic. Even without the benefit of advanced notice word spread quickly through the neighborhood of our arrival, and people started pouring out of the woodwork especially for the privilege of being seen by one particular member of our clinic, the eye doctor. A mass of humanity crowded the hallway outside the one-room eye care center which was overwhelmed by the demand and called for help. Not knowing what to do, I placed myself in the entryway, back to the door, while the swarm of mostly elderly women and young hospital employees in turn poked, prodded, pleaded, and begged to be let inside or at least be given a pair of reading or sun glasses. As each patient emerged from the exam room with freshly dilated eyes and a pair of glasses, I had to manually part the crowd to allow them to exit and my final discharge instructions came in the form of a weary and desperate plea,“Please don’t tell anyone else, okay?”
After more teaching and healing throughout the region of Galilee, just like the nursery rhyme, everywhere that Jesus went the crowds were sure to go. Not only did they follow Him from Galilee, but they also came from Judea and Jerusalem and everywhere else that word had spread of His miracles and exorcisms and even His confrontations with the Pharisees. Because many had already been healed, the people now came as a crushing wave, eager to get their hands on Jesus in hopes of being cured and cleansed from all of their maladies, and Jesus had the disciples prepare a boat in case they needed a quick escape if the mob turned violent. Those possessed by demons loudly proclaimed Jesus to be the Son of God, not as an evangelistic endeavor, but hoping to stir the crowd into a frenzy and create even more problems for Jesus. The Pharisees were already plotting to take His life for violating their Sabbath customs, and if they heard that He was being identified as the Son of God they would waste no time in mounting a raid party to drag Him back to Jerusalem right then and there.
The temple and synagogues were designed as places for the people of God to gather together in the worship of God and serve as vehicles to provide for the needs of the poor, but under the supervision of the scribes and Pharisees elitism, favoritism, and nepotism reigned supreme. Largely neglected and forgotten by the formal religious establishment in Jerusalem, Jesus saw the desperation in the eyes and hearts of the afflicted people and in compassion healed many who came to Him, but His mission was never about physical healing alone. Although He cared for their material well being, He had come as the good shepherd to lead the lost sheep of Israel out of the spiritual wilderness and gather them to Himself.
Even today, Jesus knows exactly what we need exactly when we need it. Jesus still loves His sheep and has compassion and mercy on those who have hopelessly lost their way wandering in the darkness. The difference is that today we are not called to suppress the truth of who He is, but are invited to share it with the world. There is no need too great that He cannot supply, not cause so lost that He cannot redeem. Today, just as then, His greatest work is not found in healing the sick or mending the broken, but in reconciling the lost world to Himself. His greatest work was not done by the sea, but accomplished on the cross, where Jesus bore the weight of the sin of all who would believe in Him so that through Him we could have life in His name.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we thank You that You always know exactly what we need. While we are often consumed by the cares and anxieties of the world, You offer us life and joy and peace in You. Help us not remain silent about the things that You have done for us so that more and more may come to know the power of Your healing touch for their weak and weary souls. We ask in Your perfect name, Amen.