By simply flipping through some of the pages of the Gospels in the New Testament and skimming through the events of Jesus’ ministry, we can see that He often had great demands on His time. He was often besieged by great crowds. The crowds always seemed to know where He was, even though there was no Twitter.
In the fourth chapter of Matthew, recording the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, verses 23 to 25 capture the start of the gathering of crowds. It records it this way: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.”
In Matthew 8:16 we find that one evening while He was in Capernaum the people brought many who were demon-possessed. The verse says that “he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.”
The fifth chapter of Mark tells us that just after Jesus had crossed over the lake (Sea of Galilee), once again a large crowd gathered around him there. A ruler of the synagogue named Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come and heal his dying 12-year-old daughter. The text says that when Jesus went with Jairus, a big crowd followed and were pressing in close around Him. Suddenly Jesus felt power go out from Him and was determined to find out who had touched Him. A woman who had suffered with bleeding twelve years confessed that she had touched Him in faith. She was healed. Then some messengers from Jairus’ home came to say that it was too late—Jairus’ daughter was dead. They shouldn’t bother “the teacher” any longer. Jesus ignored this and encouraged Jairus to simply believe. When they reached the house where Jairus’ daughter lay, Jesus told the mourners she was only sleeping. Then He raised her up.
The sixth chapter of Mark gives an account of what happened after John the Baptist was beheaded. Matthew 14:3 gives the impression that Jesus wanted to withdraw to a solitary place with His disciples because of the news of John the Baptist’s death, while Mark explains it as being “because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat.” The different accounts in the Gospels often show a difference in perspective of the way events were remembered. Probably both reasons given were factors in the decision to withdraw to a deserted place. Mark 6:32-34 says: “So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” I love the way Luke 9:10-11 says it: “. . . they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.”
Mark goes on to explain that it was late in the day by the time Jesus had taught and healed for a while. The disciples expressed their concern about the remoteness of their location and encouraged Jesus to send the hungry crowd away to buy some food in nearby villages. I guess there were no fast food restaurants in Bethsaida. When Jesus suggested that the disciples give them something to eat, they responded that it would cost them “more than a half year’s wages.” (John 6:6 reveals that Jesus already had a plan in mind.) After asking the disciples to see how much food was present in the crowd, they were only able to locate only five loaves of bread and two fishes, which had been brought by one boy. Jesus had them seat the crowd on the grass in groups of hundreds and fifties. He gave thanks and had the disciples distribute it to the people. Matthew 14:13 states that “The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides the women and children. From that, some assume that there may have been at least 15,000 people fed that day from the five loaves and two fishes. Everyone was satisfied, and there were twelve baskets of pieces of bread and fish left over.
Mark 10:13-16 records that when some people brought their children to Jesus to bless them, His disciples reprimanded them. They apparently thought Jesus was too busy for such things. Translations vary in explaining Jesus’ reaction to this. Some say He was “very displeased,” while other translations say He was “irritated,” “angry,” “indignant,” “upset,” or “furious.” We can safely say that He definitely didn’t like their attitude about taking time to minister to these children. He told His disciples to allow the children to come to Him. The passage says that Jesus “took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.” What a sweet picture of Jesus’ love for the children!
I could cite other instances of the crowds following Jesus that are found in the Gospels, but you get the point. Crowds followed Jesus everywhere He went during the three years of His ministry. It must have been very difficult to find any time to relax or even eat much of the time.
Jesus often took time to get away and spend time praying to the Father. Luke 5:15-16 says: Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (For other references to Jesus getting away to pray, see Mark 1:35, 6:45-46; Luke 6:12-13, 9:18, 11:1, 22:39.) Jesus was in tune with His Father’s will, and He knew when His ministry was to begin. He knew He was to begin healing the sick and casting out demons to show that He truly was sent by God. These miracles would validate the words He spoke. The miracles alone would not prove that He was the Son of God, since some of the prophets had also performed miracles, but His works were an important part of His validation. Since the miracles were a sign that He was sent by God, they would verify His later claims that He was the Son of God. God the Father would not have empowered an imposter.
By the way, it’s interesting to see that in John 5:31-40 Jesus delineated several validations that He was who He said He was. First He declared that John the Baptist (not the writer of the book of John, who was one of the twelve disciples) was a witness to His divinity. John the Baptist proclaimed that He was preparing the way for the Messiah, as predicted in Malachi 3:1. John 1:29-34 records that John the Baptist announced that Jesus was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” and said he witnessed God’s confirmation by means of the Holy Spirit coming to rest on Jesus in the form of a dove. Then Jesus listed His works as a witness. Next he listed the testimony of the Father. Matthew 3:17 says that the voice of the Father was heard from Heaven, saying: “This is my Son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased.” Some Old Testament prophets had predicted the circumstances of Jesus’ birth and other parts of His life. But Jesus here focused on the words of Moses, the writer of the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus Numbers, and Deuteronomy), as a testimony of validation. In Genesis 3:15 God tells Satan that He “will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Jesus “crushed the head of Satan” on the cross when He provided eternal life for believers. In the promise to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3 God says, “I will make you into a great nation . . . and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” That tells us that Jesus would be born in Abram’s line and that He would bless all the nations of the earth by offering salvation to all those who believe in Him. Also, in Genesis 49:8-12 we find the words “The scepter shall not depart from Judah.” Jesus was born from the tribe of Judah. He would be the King of Kings and will one day rule over the earth when He returns to the earth at the Second Coming. In Deuteronomy 18:15-18 the Lord speaks to Moses of another prophet He would raise up from the tribes of Israel. He says, “I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.” That prophet is Jesus.
When Jesus was given His assignment from the Father to perform miracles and teach, He fulfilled His assignment with great love. When the crowd recorded in Matthew 8:16 came to Jesus in the evening, He could have said, “Look, it’s evening already. It’s time to rest. Maybe you could all come back tomorrow.” When the crowd recorded in Mark 5 pressed in close around Him, He could have said. “Please! Give me a little space!” When Jairus’ messengers said it was too late to heal his daughter since she was dead, He could have said, “Sorry. Too bad we didn’t go there sooner.” When the 5,000 men plus women and children were hungry late in the day, He could have followed His disciples’ advice and sent them away to buy their own food. It must have taken a while to organize the crowd into groups of hundreds and fifties and then distribute the food and pick up the leftovers. When the people brought their children to Jesus, He could have said, “I have to prioritize my time. I can’t use my limited time for children.” In all these cases Jesus went above and beyond because of His love—His desire to please His Father and compassion for the people.
WHAT ABOUT US?
Like Jesus, whatever good things we do we must do out of love for God and love for people. In Matthew 22:37, after being asked which is the greatest commandment, Jesus responded: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” I Corinthians 13:3 tells us that even if we do some great thing, such as giving everything we have to feed the poor, if we do it without love, it’s really no credit to us. Romans 12:6-8 tells us that God has given believers different abilities with which to serve others—prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing to others’ needs, leadership, and showing mercy. He has also called us to different tasks. He may call us to other tasks at various times in our lives. We sometimes judge others for not doing what God has designed us and called us to do. Perhaps he has given them a different gift and a different calling. Whatever He has designed us and called us to do, we must do it with love for God and for people. Our motives sometimes fall short of Jesus’ love for the Father and compassion for the people.
I heard a song a couple of months ago that has come to mind over and over. It is sung by Joseph Larson. I feel that it’s a perfect song for contemplating our desires and motives in life. You can click on the video below to spend a few thoughtful minutes listening to this song.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.TM
The below is not an endorsement of the church at which the song was performed.