Hope for the Hopeless

Hope for the Hopeless | Mark 6:53-56

“When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and beached the boat. As they got out of the boat, people immediately recognized Him. They hurried throughout that vicinity and began to carry the sick on mats to wherever they heard He was. Wherever He would go, into villages, towns, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged Him that they might touch just the tassel of His robe. And everyone who touched it was made well.” (Mark 6:53-56 HCSB)

Life is often unfair. Scripture even acknowledges that: “For He (our Father in heaven) causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matt. 5:45)” I’m certain you are familiar with the story of Job and how “the accuser or adversary” (ha satan – this is where we get the name “Satan” and is “diabolos” in Greek) comes before God and claims that Job only believes and trusts God because God blesses Job. God allows him (the accuser) to test Job to demonstrate that Job’s faith is grounded far deeper in his love for and trust of God than Satan thinks. We are also reminded of this same idea in James’ letter: “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials (tests), knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-3)”

We tend to ask the question, “Why is this happening to me? I don’t deserve this. I haven’t done anything wrong. God, this is so unfair!” Sound familiar? Basically, you can view this from one of several perspectives: 1) God doesn’t exist and everything is the result of a random, chaotic universe; 2) Everything that happens is the result of my life choices and I truly get what I deserve (karma); 3) God does exist and these events are caused, orchestrated and a part of His divine purpose and plan; 4) God doesn’t cause them but He does allow them to happen and uses them as a means to achieve His purpose. I think the last option is indicative of what we see in the story of Job and in the events we face in life. We do recognize that there are certain natural forces that God has put in place to govern and regulate life on this planet – laws of nature, laws of physics, visible and invisible rules that govern life. There are also unseen, spiritual forces at work. Those things we know exist but can’t explain or rationalize. Then we add into that mix the choices we make, good and bad, and we end up with what can seem to be a mixture of order and chaos and even disastrous results due to life choices and, unfortunately, unexpected and undeserved evil.

Evil? Yes, evil. There’s no denying that evil exists in our world. Pure, raw, horrifying evil. Most often it wears a disguise and appears to be good and desirable, like a new religious idea/belief/revelation or a cultural adaptation. But then the mask is taken off and it is exposed for what it truly is, destructive and deadly. We see it most clearly in the mind and actions of the serial killer or serial rapist. But it is often disguised behind a mask of kindness or love until the trap is triggered and the door slams shut on its victim – like a spouse who is loving and kind before the wedding vows but is harsh, vindictive, violent and cruel afterwards. In fact, this kind of evil is even on display in our natural world in the form of a biological virus like Covid-19. It replicates itself as it spreads from host to host. But when it is too deadly, it kills itself by killing its host so it has to adapt and change. We’ve seen this as the Covid-19 variants have changed, mutated and have become less deadly even as they became more contagious.

But what about good? Well, I’m happy to tell you that good is not only more contagious than evil but it is also a lot more powerful. If that’s true, why doesn’t good win out over evil? 🤫 Let me let you in on a little secret, it DOES! I’ve read the end of the book and Jesus wins.

By now, you might be wondering where all of this talk about evil came from and how it relates to this week’s focal passage. If you’ll recall from last week, Jesus had sent the disciples ahead in the boat and would join them later. He sees them struggling against the wind during the early morning hours and comes to them walking on the water. They are frightened and cry out, but He assures them of who He is (I AM = God) and calms their fears. But do you recall where He sent them? He had sent them to Bethsaida but now they land the boat in Gennesaret. He had sent them east and they end up landing the boat several miles west from where they started, apparently driven here by the strong head winds. Is this an accident? Is it God’s purpose? Did Jesus know this would happen? Let me simply say, I don’t think anything that happened in Jesus’ life was an accident. I believe His entire life was one of divine purpose, direction and intent. Jesus even said, “For I have not spoken on My own, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a command as to what I should say and what I should speak.” (John 12:49 HCSB)

So, it would seem that they ended up in Gennesaret because that’s where God wanted them and I believe the strong winds and Jesus sending them ahead in the boat was all a part of His divine plan. As I mentioned last week, the disciples had completely misunderstood the miracle of the loaves and failed to see God in Jesus’ actions and words. Thus, the need to put His divine power and glory on display as He “passed by” them and proclaimed who He was – I AM! Now we find them landing in Gennesaret and God is at work, again. This is not a coincidence or an accident. Let that settle into your heart and mind. The disciples had failed to recognize God’s presence, power and provision and so He “passed by” displaying His glory and doing what only God can do. Now, He takes them to Gennesaret for a ministry encounter. This area is on the western side of the lake and is about 3 miles southwest of Capernaum.

Understanding the location also helps us understand how the people immediately recognized Him. They were close enough to Capernaum that Jesus was immediately recognized and word that He was in the area quickly spread. What was their response? To hurriedly gather the sick and bring them to Jesus. First, they recognized the importance of a rapid response to the situation. Jesus was nearby and He might not stay long. Hurry! Get the sick and get them to Him.

Is that our response? Do we readily recognize that the sick need Jesus? I’m not talking about church attendance and a religious response to life. I’m talking about an encounter with the Son of God who walks on water, feeds a large crowd with a boy’s lunch, commands evil spirits to flee and heals the sick, gives sight to the blind and causes the lame to leap with joy. The church needs to remember, the world doesn’t need us it needs Him! You and I and the church may be the channels God uses, but Jesus is the one they need to encounter. Remember the loaves and fish? We bring what we have to Jesus and let Him bless it, use it, multiply it and then distribute it to the people.

Why has Jesus brought the disciples to Gennesaret to see the crowd’s response? Perhaps it is because of that last statement in last week’s focal passage: “Instead, their hearts were hardened. (v. 52)” We often want the glory and the blessings that come from following Jesus and believing in God but our hearts are often hardened by the struggle of the work and demands of the crowd. We need this as a constant reminder: “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name…” (Philippians 2:5-9 HCSB)

They had just seen one of the greatest miracles recorded in scripture. Then they saw God’s glory revealed in Jesus as He “passed by” walking on the waves. Holy Cow! This guy really IS God! Right here. Right now. In the boat with them! They were completely astounded, because they had not understood about the loaves. Instead, their hearts had been hardened. Now, He intentionally takes them to Gennesaret to see the response of the crowds to Him and His response to them. This isn’t about what the disciples get for following Jesus, this is about what they are enabled to give: Him.

We get that part backwards, too often. We get focused on the getting and ignore the giving. We tend to make our relationship with Jesus about what we receive and not what we are enabled to give. But He tells us to love one another and to wash each other’s feet. Don’t go the required one mile when forced to carry that soldier’s pack, go two. Don’t strike back when struck, turn the other cheek. Don’t hate your enemy, pray for him. Don’t love only when you are loved, love when you are unloved and even love when you are hated and despised. Don’t seek out what you can get from God, but seek His kingdom first and foremost and then He will give you the very things you seek. Don’t take from life, give life! When people are in need we should try to help meet their need but we must also offer them the giver of life, Jesus.

When our heart is hardened, we don’t see the sheep they way Jesus sees them. Helpless. Hopeless. Lost, confused and in danger of being a victim of predators. Unfortunately, we tend to seem them as a burden, as projects in need of repair, or even as a means to an end – recognition, human achievement, worldly success, financial reward. It is easy to look at the crowds and to see fame, success and achievement. That’s what we often see. But Jesus recognized their pain, He saw their need and He gave Himself.

Notice, it says they hurried throughout that vicinity and began to carry the sick on mats to wherever they heard He was. They would lay the sick in the marketplaces, in His path, and then begged Him that they might just touch the tassel of His robe. Everyone who did was “made well” or rescued/saved. Now, I’ve stated in the past that Jesus’ miracles always have a higher purpose. They are intended to point people to faith in Him. Just like the previous miracles of the loaves and walking on the waves, these miraculous healings are intended to elicit faith in Jesus. While the people deeply longed for conquering a Messiah who would deliver them from Rome’s oppression, God sent His Son who could bring what they truly needed, salvation. They sought a soldier but they were given a savior.

All too often, we seek and long for the wrong response from God. If we can just elect the right President, get the right people in Congress, the right Supreme Court Justices seated or pass the right laws then everything will be better. We even sing it in our patriotic songs, God bless America. Just like Israel, we still seek a savior who will give us what we want instead of what we need. It is all about what we can get from God, not what we can give to Him. Consider these words…

Three Dollars Worth of God (by Wilbur Rees)
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

Doesn’t that sound like us? Yet, what God demands of us and desires from us is to live by faith. To love Him supremely and to seek Him, His kingdom and His will for our lives exclusively. We don’t want enough of God to transform us, just enough to make us feel better. To make us feel better about ourselves, about our lives, our choices and our future. But God hasn’t come to make us feel better about our condition, He’s come to rescue us out of it. He hasn’t come to make us comfortable living in slavery, He has come to break the chains that bind us in it!

Let me get a little bit blunt here. Some of you only want God for what you can get out of Him. You want Him to fix your circumstances, but not you. You want Him to fix your mate or your kids, but not you. You want Him to transform America or the world, but not you. You want Him to fix your bad habits, but not your desires. You want Him to heal your body, but not your soul. You want God to fix your problems, but not you. You want God to make you feel better but not transform you. To make you just well enough, but not too much.

But I want you to hear Mark’s words: everyone who touched it (Jesus’ tassel) was made WHOLE! Jesus didn’t just touch them, He rescued them. He didn’t come to just give sight to the blind, He came so that they might SEE God and trust Him. He didn’t come so that the lame could simply walk again, He came so that they might be able to FOLLOW Him. He didn’t make the deaf to hear or the mute to speak so they could listen to or mimic the bird’s song, but so that they could HEAR His voice and sing His praises. He didn’t cast out the unclean spirit so the man could fill himself with sin but so that he could be filled with and controlled by God’s Spirit. The miracles of Jesus are intended to cause you to fall at His feet in worship and then let Him lead you into obedience and service.

So, I beg you… reach out. Touch Him. Let His presence overwhelm you. Let His power overcome you. Let His provision humble you. Fall before Him and let Him make you whole. Come join us as we walk with Him.

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