November 12, 2012
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Matthew 15:29-31.
Moving on from there (Tyre and Sidon) Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them. The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.
Barclay believes that the people Jesus was ministering to were primarily Gentiles for they gloried the God of Israel. The Jews would not have referred to their God as a kind of third person. Also, Mark places this scene in the Decapolis, ten Greek cities largely populated by Gentiles. It also struck me that family and friends of those Jesus cured placed them at his feet, almost as a kind of offering or certainly in a deferential manner. The Jews by contrast were more clamorous, pressing in on Jesus, as if they were entitled.
Jesus usually went up on mountain to get away from people, to be by himself, to pray to his Father. This time he can’t get away; the crowds follow him. He didn’t teach them; he simply ministered to them, curing them of their ills, lifting the weight of the burdens. I know that the gospels cover Jesus’ public ministry, which may have spanned three years or so. So, there is much we don’t know. They hit the highlights. Because of the way the gospels compress time, it seems like Jesus was constantly pressed to teach, to cure, to respond to his attackers. However, surely, Jesus did have respite; surely he had time away from the demands of needy people.
I frequently feel the need to withdraw from people. I can only manage so much of taking care of others, helping, putting others’ needs before my own, being adaptable when others are less flexible. I have to get away or I feel like I’ll suffocate. When I can’t get a break, I grow despondent.
It seems like maybe this was a time when Jesus may have been feeling as I do. He went up on the mountain and just sat down. It seems like he was tired and needed a break. But he didn’t turn these needy people away; he didn’t turn his back on them. He was able to draw upon his Father’s strength, his healing energy, and unburden them.
I could be all wrong, though. It could be that Jesus has a different message for me today. I have a hard time seeing myself as a needy person. I don’t like to acknowledge that I can’t take care of myself or that I need anyone’s help. Maybe instead of identifying with Jesus today, I need to let myself be one of those who yearn to be unburdened, to be ministered to, to be healed and made whole. I simply need to put myself at his feet and let him touch me. I think I’ll try that and see what happens. I may be amazed!