14 Jesus went home with Peter and saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her. Then she got up and served them. 16 That evening people brought to Jesus many who were demon-possessed. He threw the spirits out with just a word. He healed everyone who was sick. 17 This happened so that what Isaiah the prophet said would be fulfilled: He is the one who took our illnesses and carried away our diseases. [Isaiah 53:4]
18 Now when Jesus saw the crowd, he ordered his disciples to go over to the other side of the lake. 19 A legal expert came and said to him, “Teacher, I’ll follow you wherever you go.”
20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens, and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Human One [or Son of Man] has no place to lay his head.”
21 Another man, one of his disciples, said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
23 When Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. 24 A huge storm arose on the lake so that waves were sloshing over the boat. But Jesus was asleep. 25 They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, rescue us! We’re going to drown!”
26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you people of weak faith?” Then he got up and gave orders to the winds and the lake, and there was a great calm.
27 The people were amazed and said, “What kind of person is this? Even the winds and the lake obey him!”
28 When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake in the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed came from among the tombs to meet him. They were so violent that nobody could travel on that road. 29 They cried out, “What are you going to do with us, Son of God? Have you come to torture us before the time of judgment?” 30 Far off in the distance a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons pleaded with him, “If you throw us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”
32 Then he said to the demons, “Go away,” and they came out and went into the pigs. The whole herd rushed down the cliff into the lake and drowned. 33 Those who tended the pigs ran into the city and told everything that had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole city came out and met Jesus. When they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.
9:1 Boarding a boat, Jesus crossed to the other side of the lake and went to his own city. 2 People brought to him a man who was paralyzed, lying on a cot. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man who was paralyzed, “Be encouraged, my child, your sins are forgiven.”
3 Some legal experts said among themselves, “This man is insulting God.”
4 But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said, “Why do you fill your minds with evil things? 5 Which is easier—to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But so you will know that the Human One has authority on the earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“Get up, take your cot, and go home.” 7 The man got up and went home. 8 When the crowds saw what had happened, they were afraid and praised God, who had given such authority to human beings.
9 As Jesus continued on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at a kiosk for collecting taxes. He said to him, “Follow me,” and he got up and followed him. 10 As Jesus sat down to eat in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and his disciples at the table.
11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 When Jesus heard it, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. 13 Go and learn what this means: I want mercy and not sacrifice. [Hosea 6:6] I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.”
35 Jesus traveled among all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, announcing the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The size of the harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. 38 Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest.”
“I am a Christian because in Jesus I find the most authentic, compelling, moving picture of God and his love that I can imagine.”* In today’s reading, we see the heart of Jesus. We see him tirelessly working to restore people’s physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness. He was, literally, “a man on a mission.” One key to the early Christians’ power was their attitude toward those around them, an attitude they learned from Jesus.
King Jesus, well-being and wholeness, in many forms, seemed to spring up wherever you went. I need that, too, so I’m grateful that you continue to work in my life today. Amen.
* Adam Hamilton, Christianity and World Religions. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005, p. 129.
In today’s passage (Matthew 8:14 – 9:13, 35-38), we see Jesus work a multitude of miracles everywhere he goes. And it’s so easy to stop there. The miracles were an amazing sign of God’s power, to be sure—but they weren’t the point of the story. Jesus’s miracles were a sign of authority that enabled him to do his real work: transforming and loving people. Jesus’ words in 9:37-38 illustrate this: “The size of the harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest.”
Jesus wasn’t asking his disciples to go out and miraculously heal people—he was asking them to go out and care for people, meeting their emotional and spiritual needs and leading them to the truth. It’s easy to look at Jesus’s miracles and think of it as some far-off fantastical scenario that will never play out in your life. But Jesus’ real mission of saving people is something that still plays out today, if you’re willing to look for it.
I learned this for myself at 20 years old when my college campus ministry leadership team went to a busy public park in Orlando, Florida to go out and help people. We got there, prayed as a team, and went out two by two to just meet people where they were at. I was a little stumped, and so was my partner, Yadhira. But we weren’t about to give up, so we walked around until we found someone we could help.
We found an older man, by himself, loading bales of hay into a pickup truck. We stopped and asked if he needed any help. After a quick conversation, he agreed and we began helping him load the hay bales into his truck. His wife didn’t get out much and he had stopped going to church years ago, so he didn’t have much of a social network. He enjoyed the company as we talked and laughed about what was going on in his life and how it was oddly similar to what was going on in the lives of these two college kids.
By the time we finished up, the man was in a much better mood than when he started. But that’s when something amazing happened. The man began weeping, trying to contain his sobs, as he told us about his son who was battling cancer. The outlook was such that he had no idea if his son was going to live or not.
He’d told us he stopped going to church a long time ago, but we found out why: nobody cared. His wife got sick and nobody cared. He lost his job and nobody cared. Life kept happening to him and nobody cared. They were so busy with their own lives that they never made this man a part of them. So when his son came down with cancer, of course he didn’t think to go to the church. And because of his experience with the church, he never thought to go to God. But two college kids took the time to help him load bales of hay and ask about his life, and that was more than anyone had cared in a long time. He found himself gushing to us about his life because he had nobody else, besides his family, to talk to.
This experience shook me. Surely it was some divine appointment, some once-in-a-lifetime experience. But I started really working on being there for people—everyone in my life. I took the time to get to know and take a genuine interest in my coworkers and friends, and also people like restaurant and grocery store workers or even service workers that stopped in my house. And I was amazed to see that similar things happened all the time. Coworkers opened up about their failing marriages, grocery clerks opened up about their fears of never getting anywhere in life and their dreams for the future, Subway sandwich artists opened up about their parents’ divorces. People longed for human connection, and many of them were incredibly lonely.
That’s what Jesus meant when he said the harvest was big, but the workers were few. There are many, many people out there who need help: a listening ear, a nonjudgmental friend, or a shoulder to cry on. But, like the people who drove the man in that park away from church to begin with, many people are too busy to notice and care. And so most of us go through life pretending to be happy because we’ve sadly learned that nothing good comes from opening up about your struggles. People long to hear hope, love, and support, and it’s sadly hard to find.
Having deep and potentially life-changing interactions with people, even strangers, is easier than you think. Many people are waiting desperately for a chance to have an encounter like that. Be patient and nonjudgmental and genuinely care about everyone in your life, from coworkers to service workers, and these opportunities will pop up fairly regularly. Be the safe space people need, even when it looks like they don’t need it, and many people will eventually use it. The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Be one of the few that care enough to work every day at that.
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