"Bringing People to Jesus"
(Delivered Sunday, March 11, 2007 at Bethany Bible Church. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)
This morning's passage tells a very short story—just a mere 'snapshot' of the earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus.
This tiny passage of three verses tells a story of something that occurred after Jesus had performed some very remarkable miracles. It occurred after He fed a huge crowd of several thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and a few fishes. It occurred after He walked across the Sea of Galilee during a storm in the midst of the night, causing the disciples to cry out in fear. It occurred after He came into the boat in th midst of the sea, causing the wind and the waves to cease. And it occurred after the disciples fell before Him in the boat and declared, "Truly, You are the Son of God."
So, it's a story that, frankly, would be easy to pass by—particularly since it is preceded by such dramatic demonstrations of Jesus' power and authority. But in spite of the seemingly humble part it plays in the gospel story, I have found this tiny passage of three verses to be a wonderful breath of fresh air. It's not only a delightful story; but it's also an instructive story that deserves our serious attention.
It tells us what happened after Jesus had gone out to His disciples on the lake, and revealed that He is the Son of God, during those early morning hours:
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One reason this story demands our attention is because it stands out in sharp contrast to the things that preceded it. It follows after several stories of the opposition and unbelief Jesus was receiving in His earthly ministry—particularly from people who should have known better.
As He walked this earth, our Lord's message was, "Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” And in all of His preaching, He clearly showed Himself to be the long-awaited King of that declared kingdom. And yet, He had to rebuke the places in which He had taught and worked (Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum), because they would not repent at His teaching (11:20-24). He was met with resistance from the religious leaders of the day who demanded signs from Him (12:38), and who sought to kill Him (12:14). He was even met with unbelief and resistance from His own family (12:46-50), and from the people of His own home-town (13:53-58). The news about Him was greeted by King Herod with misunderstanding and superstition (14:1-2). The multitudes that He fed misunderstood His mission—forcing Him to separate Himself from them because they sought to make Him into their earthly provider (John 6:15). Even His own disciples failed to recognize Him as He walked out to them—thinking that He was a ghost (Matthew 14:26).
That's the response He had received from the people who had the greatest opportunity to with respect to Him—the wise, the mighty, the privileged. And yet, as we come to the story of how the boat came to dock along the shores of this tiny community of simple folk, we find that they were the ones who warmly received Him and believed on Him. What an example they are of what it says in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29;
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Another reason this story stands out is because of the interesting place in which it occurs. Gennesaret was a tiny strip of land along the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee—just just a little south of Capernaum, which was the centerplace of so much of our Lord's earthly ministry. Gennesaret was a piece of land that was only three-and-a-half miles long, and—in some spots—only two miles wide. And yet, it was a remarkably fruitful and productive strip of land. Its name means "Garden of Riches"; and it was described by the ancient historian Josephus1 as a place in which the seasons and the climate came together in such a way as to allow for produce beyond normal expectation. It was a beautiful, fruitful place that Josephus called "the ambition of nature".
Its people would be humble farming-folk; but they were a people in whom the spiritual 'seeds' had clearly been planted by the news they had heard of Jesus' mighty works in nearby Capernaum. You can tell this by the fact that they expected "healing" as a result of the simple "touch" of the hem of His garment—something they had clearly learned through the stories of the woman in Capernaum who had been suffering from a bleeding condition for twelve years, and yet who had said, "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well" (Matthew 9:21).
An additional fact about this place is that it was adjacent to a tiny little community named Magdala. That was the home of a very special follower of Jesus; "Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons" (Luke 8:2). I'm engaging in a bit of speculation here; but it may even be that the incident that we read about in our passage this morning was the very time in which Jesus had cast those seven demons out of His dear disciple Mary.
So, not only was the land of Gennesaret fruitful, but so was the gospel in the hearts of its people. And that's another reason why this story deserves our attention. The people of Gennesaret stand as an example of what Jesus said in Matthew 13:23;
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But the reason this story has stood out the most to me has been a practical one. This story not only gives us the assurance that Jesus lovingly and graciously rewards any expression of faith that is placed on Him; but it also teaches us what we—who have placed our faith in Him for salvation—should do to draw others to Him as Savior.
And that's the focus I ask we take as we look at this passage together. As we look at the story of the reaction of the people of Gennesaret to the coming of Jesus, we see a discernible pattern; and this pattern illustrates how we may be used by God to bring other needy people to Jesus for salvation.
Stop and think for a moment, dear brother or sister in Christ, of the people that God has placed in your life that do not yet know Him—who do not yet have a relationship with Him by faith. Perhaps one or two people stand out in particular. They are illustrated by the sick and needy people in this morning's passage. The people in your life may not 'look' like the people in this passage. They may, to all outward appearances, seem to have it all together. But because of sin, they are separated from the One who made them for Himself. They are, as the Bible says, walking “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience . . .”; conducting themselves “in the lusts of the flesh and of the mind”; by nature “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
They need the healing touch of Jesus Christ applied to their souls. But how do they come into contact with that healing touch? How are they brought to Jesus; who is the answer to the deepest needs of their soul? I believe that this morning's passage teaches us the answer. And that makes this very small passage a very important one indeed!
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The first thing that we see in may seem like an obvious point; but it's one that needs to be stressed. It is that we must . . .
1. RECOGNIZE HIM FOR WHO HE IS.
Matthew tells us that when Jesus and His disciples came to the land of Gennesaret, “the men of that place recognized Him”. And it was their recognition of Him that motivated them into immediate action.
Now, up to this point, Jesus hadn't done anything that we know of at Gennesaret. All He had done was arrive by boat and dock along their shore. He had, as yet, performed no miracles among them. And so, what was it that caused them to “recognize” Him?
It isn't hard to tell. They immediately brought the sick and needy of the surrounding region to Him for healing. Clearly, they “recognized” Him as the One about whom they had heard so much from nearby Capernaum—this One who taught people the truths of the Kingdom of God; and who substantiated that teaching by healing lepers, raising the sick, giving sight to the blind, casting out demons, restoring the paralytics, and even controlling the wind and the waves. Clearly, they believed the things that they had heard about Him. They recognized Him for who He was proving Himself to be. And because they did, it wasn't necessary to persuaded them to bring needy people to Him. They quite readily ran to do so.
I suggest that one of the reasons that we aren't more motivated to bring other people to Jesus is because we don't sufficiently recognize Him for who He is. If we truly recognized Jesus Christ to be the Son of God in human flesh—that in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and that we are complete in Him (Col. 2:9-10); if we truly believe that there is no hope for men and women who are broken and damaged by the ravages of sin, except through Him; if we truly believe that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”, and that He is that Son that was given, and that all the answers to human need are found in Him; then it will become the burning passion of our hearts to tell others about Him.
A right view of Jesus is the greatest, most inspiring motivational force we could possibly experience. When we recognize Jesus for who He is, we also recognize the power He has to transform the lives of those who trust Him. And we thus become motivated by love in our view of others who need Him. I believe that the apostle Paul was expressing something of this when he wrote;
To the degree that we rightly recognize Jesus for who He is, we will to that degree be motivated—from the heart—to be His "ambassadors" and to share Him with others! May we grow more and more to recognize Him for who He is!
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The men of Gennesaret recognized Jesus. But that wasn't enough. A second thing that this passage teaches us is that we must also . . .
2. SEND OUT WORD CONCERNING HIM.
Once the men of Gennesaret recognized that it was this miracle-working Jesus who had stepped onto their shore, “they sent out into all that surrounding region” with the news of His arrival. They told everyone, “Jesus—the One who heals all who are brought to Him—has come to us!” They spread the news.
Do you remember how, after Jesus raised the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue from the dead, “the report of this went out into all that land” (Matthew 9:26)? And do you remember how, after Jesus had healed the two blind men—even though He had urged them not to—“when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country” (Matthew 9:31). Think of the Samaritan woman that Jesus spoke with at the well. Do you remember how, afterwards, she left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:29). Or think of Philip; who, after he had met Jesus, went out and found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also in the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45). That seems to be the pattern; doesn't it?
I'll never forget what happened to me the morning after I first trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior and, for the first time, experienced the forgiveness of my sins and the joy of salvation. I was so excited that I called my best friend, and I told him, "Guess what I did last night? I prayed and gave my life to Jesus Christ. Now, I'm 'justified'!!"
To tell you the truth, I wasn't entirely sure what "justified" meant; but I knew that it meant that I was forgiven and that all my sins where washed away. And I don't think my friend entirely knew what to think of what I was trying to say. But what still amazes me even to this day is that I didn't know you're supposed to tell other people about Jesus. I just did! It seemed like the natural thing to do; because I wanted my friend to know the joy and forgiveness I had just experienced in trusting Jesus. That has taught me that, once you've met Jesus—once you've truly recognized Him for who He is—you cannot contain yourself. You feel an inner compulsion to tell others about this wonderful Friend you've found.
Now; think of that needy person God has placed in your life. The promise of God's word is that "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved" (Joel 2:32). But the apostle Paul then goes on to ask,
That “preacher” is to be you and me, dear brothers and sisters. He has given the message of Himself to those who have trusted Him; and has called us to pass the message on to others. May God help us to follow the example of the men of Gennesaret—and send out the news about Him in the sphere in which He has placed us.
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It's still not enough, though, to recognize Him and then spread the news about Him. We actually have to . . .
3. BRING NEEDY PEOPLE TO HIM.
The word “sick” that we find in this passage is the translation of a Greek phrase that basically means “having it bad” or “having it wretched”. The men of Gennesaret sent out into all that surrounding region, and “brought to Him all who were sick”. In other words, they sought out and brought those to Jesus who could not have brought themselves to Him—those who “had it bad”.
I did a little study of how often the Bible tells us that someone “brought” someone else to Jesus for His healing touch. And I was amazed with how often it happened just in the Gospel of Matthew! In Matthew 4:24, we're told that "His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them." 8:16 says, "when evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick . . ." 9:2 says, "Then behold, the brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed." 9:32 says, "As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed." 12:22 says, "Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him . . ." 17:16-17 tells of a man who says that he brought his epileptic son to the disciples, but they couldn't heal the boy; and in response, Jesus says, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me." 19:13 says, "Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray . . ."
It seems to me that, repeatedly, we're told of people bringing other people to Jesus who could not have gotten to Him on their own. It was a tremendous act of love and mercy for them to do so; and as a result, Jesus graciously gave them what they needed. Even the little children who were brought to Him were blessed and prayed over by Him.
Sometimes God places before you someone who is in great need. They're broken and battered by the ravages of sin. And because they don't know where else to turn, they turn to the remedies that the world offers—remedies that don't deal with the sin, and that don't give them what they really need. They're helpless. They've got it bad. And so often, they don't go to Jesus—the only One who truly can meet their need—because someone like you and me doesn't follow the impulse of the Holy Spirit, take that poor needy sinner by the hand in love, and lead them to Him.
Is there someone that God has placed in your life that is in need of Jesus—someone who "has it bad"? And is God looking to you to bring that person to Him for the meeting of that desperate need? And are you willing to go in the power of the Holy Spirit, tell that person about Jesus, and then to bow in prayer with that person and "bring" them to Jesus?
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I'd like to point out just one more thing we see in this passage about bringing needy people to Jesus; and that's that we . . .
4. PLEAD WITH HIM ON THEIR BEHALF.
The men of Gennesaret recognized Him when He came, spread the news about Him throughout the surrounding region, and then actually took the initiative to bring helpless people to Him. But it didn't stop there; because we're told that those who brought the needy to Him "begged Him that they [that is, the people in need] might only touch the hem of His garment."
We already know where they got that idea. It was from the story of the woman that Jesus had healed in nearby Capernaum. Matthew tells us about this in chapter 9; where we read,
I believe that the woman sought to touch Jesus because her illness made her unclean; and she thought that she—an unclean woman—should not dare to touch Jesus Himself. But she also believed that, if she only touched His garment, she would be made whole. And of course, Jesus was not made unclean by her contact with Him. Rather, the moment she made contact with Him, she ceased to be unclean.
But more important is the fact that reaching out and touching Jesus' hem in this way was an expression of faith on the woman's part. Jesus made it clear that it wasn't the garment of Jesus that healed her; but rather, it was her faith in Him that brought about the healing. And I believe that, in the same way, the men of Gennesaret brought these poor, helpless people to Jesus and pleaded with Him that they might be allowed to—as an imperfect but sincere expression of faith—reach out their hands and touch even just the hem of His garment. And it was that expression of their faith that Jesus responded to.
Jesus didn't simply stand in one spot—high on a rock—and spread healing across the land. I believe that it was in His power to do so. But instead, it seems that He demands that faith in Him somehow be personally expressed on the part of those who were brought to Him. They had to reach out and touch Him. And this is were we need to note the plea on the part of the men of Gennesaret; that they made a plea to Jesus on behalf of those they brought to Him that He would allow Himself to be touched. They pleaded with Him that He would respond to their efforts to bring these poor needy folks to Him, and allow them to express an earnest faith in Him.
This underscores to me one of the most important things we can do on behalf of the needy people we bring to Jesus; and that is that we interceded for them in prayer—that we plead with Jesus on their behalf.
Do you have a friend in need? And have you recognized the power of Jesus to meet that need? Have you spread the news about Him to them? Have you even brought them to Him? Even if you've done all that, there still remains one more thing you should do; and that is to plead with Jesus on their behalf.
Jesus Himself makes this wonderful promise: "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out" (John 6:37). Will you plead with the Father that this needy one would be given to Jesus? And will you plead for them that saving faith would be given to them, and that they would sincerely trust Jesus and, as it were, reach out the hand and touch the hem of His garment by faith?
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This passage closes by telling us that "as many as touched it were made perfectly well". The word translated "perfectly well" literally means "saved completely"; and I believe this gives us an illustration of just how much Jesus saves those who trust Him—completely. How confident we can be in His mighty power to save!
So; when it comes to the needy people in our lives, may we follow the example of the men of Gennesaret. May we bring them to Jesus. He saves completely!
1Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 3.10.8. Josephus writes; "The country also that lies over against this lake hath the same name of Gennesareth; its nature is wonderful as well as its beauty; its soil is so fruitful that all sorts of trees can grow upon it, and the inhabitants accordingly plant all sorts of trees there; for the temper of the air is so well mixed, that it agrees very well with those several sorts, particularly walnuts, which require the coldest air, flourish there in vast plenty; there are palm trees also, which grow best in hot air; fig trees also and olives grow near them, which yet require an air that is more temperate. One may call this place the ambition of nature, where it forces those plants that are naturally enemies to one another to agree together; it is a happy contention of the seasons, as if every one of them laid claim to this country; for it not only nourishes different sorts of autumnal fruit beyond men's expectation, but preserves them a great while; it supplies men with the principal fruits, with grapes and figs continually, during ten months of the year and the rest of the fruits as they become ripe together through the whole year; for besides the good temperature of the air, it is also watered from a most fertile fountain. The people of the country call it Capharnaum. Some have thought it to be a vein of the Nile, because it produces the Coracin fish as well as that lake does which is near to Alexandria. The length of this country extends itself along the banks of this lake that bears the same name for thirty furlongs, and is in breadth twenty, And this is the nature of that place.
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