Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught.31 Many people were coming and going, so there was no time to eat. He said to the apostles, “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.” 32 They departed in a boat by themselves for a deserted place.

33 Many people saw them leaving and recognized them, so they ran ahead from all the cities and arrived before them. 34 When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things.

Healings at Gennesaret

53 When Jesus and his disciples had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret, anchored the boat, 54 and came ashore. People immediately recognized Jesus 55 and ran around that whole region bringing sick people on their mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 Wherever he went—villages, cities, or farming communities—they would place the sick in the marketplaces and beg him to allow them to touch even the hem of his clothing. Everyone who touched him was healed.

This is the word of God for us, the people of God.  Thanks be to God.

 

Healing Hands: Draw Crowds

 

In today’s scripture the healing power of Jesus was becoming so well-known that large crowds were coming to see Jesus.  In fact, people from all over were bringing their sick friends and family members to Jesus simply in the hope that they would be able to —

be near him,

and touch him,

and be healed.

Jesus was creating an uproar of hope and healing.  Not only had Jesus gone throughout Galilee healing and teaching, but he had sent the disciples out in pairs with the authority of God to do the same – to heal, to cast out demons and to call on people to change their hearts and their lives.  Not only were people being healed of physical ailments, people were being forgiven for their sins – and they were healed in a whole new way – they turned away from things like pride, envy, jealousy and rage and turned toward a different kind of life with God.

This story takes place just as the apostles have returned to Jesus to report about their work, and the Apostles must have been so excited that day!  Jesus had sent the apostles out in twos and, remember, Jesus had told them to not take any money or extra clothes – to just go and seek out the hospitality of those they were preaching to.  And they had just returned to Jesus to report back on all their experiences.  They probably had some successes, but they probably had some failures – and they probably did have to follow Jesus’ advice and shake the dust from their sandals and move on from some households when the people didn’t accept their teachings.  And I’m sure the reports from the mission field were lively.

And Jesus’ response to his disciples was maybe a little strange. Jesus said this: “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for awhile.”  Hmm.  Not at all what I would be thinking.  Wouldn’t we have been planning our next move?  Wouldn’t we be asking – where do we go now?  Who do we preach to now?  How do we improve our performance?  We’ve got to plan our next mission trip – we need to go across the country preaching.  And we will have to fundraise, and we will have to form committees, and we need to get organized and figure out ways to draw bigger crowds.

Well, the disciples must have been worn out – and Jesus recognized their humanity.  It was such a busy day, with so many people coming and going, that they didn’t even have time to eat, the scripture says.  I know you have all had days like that – you have all faced days like the apostles did.  Days where you are exhausted mentally and physically, and days when you are just plain hungry and grouchy.  Days when the needs were great and the crowds around us were large.  Days when we feel hurried, harried, and stressed to the max, and days when our own well-laid plans are interrupted by the crowds pressing in on us.

And we have also felt like all those people crowding around Jesus and the disciples.  Days when we felt we were in desperate need for some healing – days when we have just been sick in our spirits and sick in our bodies, too.  Days when we too would have rushed to find the healing hem of Jesus.

Jesus understood the disciples, and he also understood those seeking him out for help like sheep without a shepherd.  And he had compassion on both groups of people.  Jesus first had compassion on the sick and healed them, but he also said to the disciples, “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.”  Jesus could tell, it was time for rest.  It wasn’t time for planning or organizing or pressing on.  It was time to renew, reenergize. and to reconnect with God.

And so one of the things that we see in this scripture is Jesus establishing a pattern, maybe more of a rhythm, for ministry.  I hope you remember back in Mark chapter 3 when Jesus first called the 12, before he could give the apostles any kind of authority, first —- the apostles had to “be with Jesus.”  Then they were sent out with his authority.  And now Jesus encourages the apostles to go to a secluded place to spend time with God and be renewed.  So we see this pattern or this rhythm – spend time with God, go out to do God’s work…….spend time with God, go out to do God’s work.

Jesus sets this example many times in scripture.  He tends to the crowds and then seeks out solitude with the Father.  And then he repeats this rhythm.  He returns to the crowds, and then seeks out time to pray in quiet and seek guidance and renewal from God.

So, I think that there are a couple of lessons we can pull from this scripture.  If we are seeking to live as disciples – if we are practicing following Jesus in our lives – if we want to truly be apostles – we ARE called to do God’s work in the world.  And we are called to do this work with passion and energy.  And I love verse 54, where we hear this:

People immediately recognized Jesus and ran around the whole      region bringing sick people to him on their mats to where they       heard he was.  Wherever he went– villages, cities or farming        communities—they would place the sick in the marketplaces and        beg him to allow them to touch even the hem of his clothing.

I love to imagine people bringing their friends and family members into the presence of Jesus for healing – I can just imagine the sick waiting in the marketplace just begging to be made well.  And I see that as a beautiful description of how we are called to share the love of Christ with those we know.  But I wonder whether we are this bold and energetic in our mission today.  Do we boldly bring those who need healing into God’s presence?  Do we use the authority of Jesus and go out as apostles on a mission in the name of Jesus?

I’ll be honest, sometimes I have no clue how we are supposed to do this.  I have no idea how we are supposed to share the love of God with people.  Sometimes I feel like I am doing this, and sometimes I feel like I’m failing at this mission.  But that brings me to the second lesson in this scripture.  It’s the other part of the rhythm that Jesus establishes.  Before we go out in the mission of God, we must be in God’s presence.  And then we go out again.  And then we seek God’s presence again.  God’s direction is required for our mission.  Sometimes we forget the importance of seeking a quiet place to be with God.  It is in the quiet place that Jesus sought the Father’s will – it is in the quite place that Jesus discerned the Father’s plan for the world.  In is in the solitude that Jesus sought courage.  It is in the presence of God that Jesus got a clear picture of what he was to do.  And so surely for us, too, solitude is a crucial part of being a disciple.  Perhaps it is that time of seeking God that is imperative for knowing the specifics of how we are supposed to bring our friends and family into the presence of Jesus.

And then the rhythm repeats itself.  Because when we go out in mission, it can be exhausting.  I think about the ministries going on around here – [it is hard work to host vacation Bible school – it takes a lot of time and energy and patience.]  It is hard work to be involved in helping to feed 60 kids who come to get food each week – it takes a lot of time and energy and patience and money.  And when we take our ministry to a deeper level is when the work gets really exhausting.  When we take the time to build relationships with people, and we see the depth of the need, it can be overwhelming.  This summer as we have gotten to know the families who come each week to pick up food, we have learned that they struggle providing the basic needs for their children – they struggle to pay electric bills and to keep their cars running, to put gas in their cars and get adequate medical care.  And on top of having hardships that some of us don’t have to worry about, they still struggle with the same things we do like relationships and keeping their kids entertained all summer and stress at work.

Jesus calls us not to simply help provide for physical needs in our community, but to build relationships with people, so that we can share the love of God in really deep ways – so that we can continually encourage those who are desperate for the love of God that Jesus loves them with a never-ending love.  And what I have learned is the more time I spend in God’s presence, the more aware I become of the needs around me.  The more time I spend listening to God, the more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control I seem to possess.  It is in time spent with God that the fruit of the Spirit can grow in us.  And so this time with God seems to show me the mission and also equip me for the mission. 

So I encourage you today for the particular mission that God talks to you about in your quiet time seeking God.  But I also encourage you to be prepared.  Because it is hard work to do things like organize a school supply give away or a teacher appreciation meal, but all these ways of reaching out to the community to express God’s love and grace are some of the simple ways that we share the healing nature of Jesus with people around us.  And they can be exhausting.  The crowds can be demanding.

And so Jesus models this rhythm.  We seek God in solitude, we work, and we seek solitude.  We work, and we seek solitude.  If we are seeking to live as disciples, we must follow this same pattern.  We cannot do God’s work without seeking the face of God.  We cannot do the work without seeking the face of God.  We cannot do the work without seeking the face of God.

So over the next few weeks, I’m going to share a few techniques that people have practiced to seek God’s presence over the centuries.  Today’s practice is literally just sitting in God’s presence.  Just being quiet and still.  The challenge this week is to just be still and know God and to let yourself be known by God.

It is in this time alone with God, that we are healed – that our spirits are restored, and that our patience and compassion for humanity are built up.  When we take time on a regular basis to seek God in a quiet place, we are able to touch the hem of his clothes and be healed ourselves.  We can never hope to share the healing power of Jesus unless we are healed ourselves.

So this day, may we come near to Jesus

May we touch him,

and be healed.

Then, I pray that we would go out as apostles to do God’s work—showing the compassion of Christ and bringing all those who need healing into his presence.

Healing God, today we beg for the touch of your healing hand upon all the world.  We lay our lives at your feet – we give you our hurts and our pains, and we beg for healing.  But we also lay before you the lives of those we know who need you today.  And God of miracles, we pray that you would use us to create an uproar of healing and hope in this community.  In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.