Jesus Was Accessible
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 15:29a (Holman) Moving on from there, Jesus passed along the Sea of
Mark 7:31 tells us Jesus went to Decapolis (“ten cities”), a loosely knit federation of ten Greco-Roman cities. From the Sea of Galilee, Decapolis fanned northeast toward Damascus, southeast toward Amman. The ten cities are strewn with ruins of amphitheaters, forums, and pagan statues to Greek and Roman gods.
This heavy Greco-Roman influence began with colonization by veterans from the army of Alexander the Great. Due to their presence, Greek civilians also migrated to this area. It became an enclave conducive to pagan Greek culture.
When Rome conquered the Middle East, they were thrilled to find this colony. Greeks were usually friends of Rome. Glad to find a friend in otherwise hostile territory, Rome promoted the good fortune and prosperity of these cities.
Thus, in Jesus’ day, Israel had next door a despised outpost of pagan, abhorrent Greco-Roman culture. Jesus, despite the animosity of His own people, marched His Disciples into this heart of darkness. They surely grudged each step.
Missions marked every line of this story. On this short-term mission trip (MT 15:21-39), Jesus focused on Gentiles. He had healed the Canaanite woman’s daughter, ministered in Tyre and Sidon, and was now headed to bless Decapolis.
The Twelve were unwittingly peeping into their own future. Jesus forced them to see a new side of unbelievers. Christ made sure the Apostles experienced for themselves the warm welcome He can receive from Gentiles, non-Israelites.
Jesus taught His twelve disciples Gentiles are as loved as Jews by God. The natural byproduct of this fact was, Christianity will become a worldwide religion.
Matt. 15:29b He went up on a mountain and sat there.
By sitting, Jesus assumed the usual posture of a Jewish teacher. When Christ sat, He proved He intended to take time to teach these pagan unbelievers. Jesus chose to stop in His tracks in Gentile territory, where hurting people were.
Learn a vital lesson from our Master. The first step in ministering to hurting people is to make ourselves accessible to them, to stop near them. We can’t only throw money at poverty and pains, or merely send others to do this work. Christ requires each of us, personally and individually, to draw close to hurting people.
Our own personal understanding of how to best help the poor and hurting is usually more a product of our times than we like to admit. We want to think we are innovative, independent freethinkers, but the culture around us influences us heavily. By knowing what society is saying, we are more to break free of it.
Why do USA Americans give to help the needy? Before the Civil War, our motive was Biblical Stewardship. Since God loves all people, we felt compelled to promote the common good. Churches led in charitable work: hospitals, schools, universities, orphanages, missions of mercy. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French historian, saw a barn raising and surmised, “America has the soul of a church.”
From the Civil War to WWII, the focus of our giving shifted from God (Biblical Stewardship) to people (Philanthropy, which means friend of man). The Carnegies and Rockefellers amassed fortunes and established the first foundations.
Gifts went mainly for the selective good rather than the common good. Our emphasis shifted from helping individuals succeed to making a better society that would give people willing to help themselves the chance to rise. Politics became huge in our thinking. Government had ended the worst scourge of Earth: slavery. Thus it was natural to look to making a better society to cure other ills of society: prison reform, child labor laws, women’s suffrage, prohibition, education, etc.
“God helps those who help themselves” was the theme. Carnegie said, “It is better for mankind that the millions (of dollars) of the rich were thrown into the sea than to encourage the slothful, the drunken, the unworthy.” By giving people a ladder to climb up on, a distinction was made between worthy and unworthy.
After WWII, tax law changes, cheap third class mail, plus proliferation of telephones and computers, increased the number of foundations and nonprofits from 12,500 to over 1,000,000. Now agencies do the bulk of the work. We fund them to get things done, but give only to the extent we don’t have to hurt our own lifestyle. Our giving is thus a culture of convenience rather than one of sacrifice.
All three methods have merit: Biblical Stewardship, betterment of society, agencies. This is why each has had its day in the sun as our dominant form of giving. We Christians utilize all three, but must never get far away from the first one. We have to care for all and be personally involved in helping the hurting.
Matt. 15:30a And large crowds came to him, . . .
The moment Jesus stopped, it was inevitable He’d be mobbed. Jesus did not complain about the throng. He never looked on irreligious riffraff with disdain.
Holy gossip had preceded Him to the ten cities area. In the past, sick people from Decapolis had traveled to Israel to be healed by Jesus (Matthew 4:25). This cured crowd had come home spreading news about a healer named Jesus.
Jesus arriving in their territory was big news. His stopping, rather than passing quickly through, was an enormous event. The same One others had gone to in the past to be healed was now accessible to all. He had come to them.
Matt. 15:30b . . .having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, those
unable to speak and many others.
It was a pitiful, woeful lot. Sin made this world a hospital. The lame could not walk. The blind could not see. The deformed had a limb crooked or bent. Those unable to speak could not ask for help, they could not verbalize their need.
Jesus witnessed what is still seen in places devoid of physicians, surgeons, and medical attention. Even ailments we consider minor often become chronic.
Jesus was approachable–none too repulsive, too dirty, too smelly for Him. Sadly, the neediest ones, the ones who made Jesus famous due to His ministering to them, are often the very ones most avoided and neglected by His followers.
Matt. 15:30c They put them at His feet, . . .
Where else can we go? Whatever our dilemma–physical, mental, emotional, spiritual–the place to start is at Jesus’ feet, to lay our case before Him. Often we’ll later need to go other places, but start at His feet, seeking His help and guidance. He can make us wise to know precisely where or to whom we need to go next.
No other possible solution to our problems is nearly as effective as laying them first and foremost at Jesus’ feet. His feet were the epicenter of power; they walked on water. His feet were the essence of mercy; they became nail-scarred.
Matt. 15:30d . . .and He healed them.
No pharmacy, no clinic, no hospital, no IVs, no needles, no malpractice insurance. No ritual or ceremony, little time for prayer. No falderal. The scene’s utter simplicity is stunning. He healed them. Jesus always meets needs. He may not do exactly what we want Him to do, but no one ever comes to Jesus in vain.
Dear unbelieving friend, even if you see believers as hypocrites, please go to Jesus for help. Don’t let us, His flawed followers, keep you from going to Him.
He who loves you more than we His followers will ever love you is perfect. We are sinners like you. If we disappoint you, don’t despair or punish yourself.