One of my favorite introductory courses in college was sociology. I can people watch with the best of them. There is something about our human condition that fascinates me — the things that make us tick, how we relate to and depend on others, muddling through each day trying to figure it all out.
Reading through the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is such a people person. It’s not until Jesus leaves his childhood home, Nazareth, and heads about 20 miles northeast to the region of Galilee, to live on the north side of the lake at Capernaum that we get a glimpse of how he interacts with people. And there was a lot of people.
“And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him mall the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.” Matt 4:23-25
All the sick.
And he healed them.
How beautiful is that?
After Jesus speaks to the crowds at the sermon on the mount, we are introduced to a string of people who are desperate. Desperate for healing and restoration.
When Jesus cleansed the leper, the guy no one wanted to be around, the guy who was ceremonially unclean and had no contact with others, “Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him.” He physically touched him. Jesus returned a sense of humanity to the leper. (Matt 8:1-4)
After the centurion asks Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant just with his words rather than traveling to the place where the servant dwelled, Jesus “marveled” at his statement, saying, “Truly I tell you, with no in Israel have I found such faith.” Jesus acknowledged this man’s faith; he received it. It wasn’t in the magic touch of Jesus’ hand, it was in the power of his words, in Him. The centurion got that. Jesus encouraged his belief, and with a word, healed the paralyzed servant. (Matt 8:5-13)
Jesus heals the mother of Peter, one of his disciples. “He touched her hand.” (Matt 8:14-17)
When the storm arose on the Sea of Galilee, threatening to overturn the disciples fishing boat, they begged Jesus to save them, who was taking a nap, by the way. Jesus had interacted with a lot of people by this point. He was drained, and I don’t know about you, but nap time can be very important. Did he say, “Don’t worry about it. You’re overreacting. Why are you bugging me?” No, Jesus acknowledged their fear, and he “rose and rebuked the winds and the sea.” (Matt 8:23-27)
Upon returning to Capernaum, some people brought a paralytic for healing and “Jesus saw their faith.” (Matt 9:1-2)
After calling Matthew to be a disciple, we find Jesus reclining at the table with “many tax collectors and sinners” — certainly not the upper crust of society. And his response? “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (Matt 9:10-13)
Jesus goes on to heal countless others. The ruler’s daughter who died was brought back to life. The woman who suffered from bleeding for 12 years grabs the hem of his cloak. The two blind men on the side of the road.
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt 9:35-36)
I would venture to say we have all, at one point or another, been sick, afflicted, oppressed, harassed, helpless — in need of healing. Just like us, the people Jesus ministered to where not in their best shape, not at the top of their game. Life was not all pretty and shiny with a big red bow on top. But I love that with Jesus, that’s okay. He didn’t ask these people to get it together before they approached him. He gave a voice to their hurt, to their pain. He made them feel like a person when society said otherwise. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty; he physically touched those who were considered untouchable. He recognized and welcomed even the tiniest sliver of faith because that’s what it is all about. Thank goodness.
How can we share a glimpse of that beauty with the people our lives?