Summary: A study of Jesus' ministry to the outcasts of society.

“[Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’” [1]

Most of us have deficits, deficiencies, limitations that ensure our life will always be marked by struggles, demands that must be overcome if we are to continue onward toward Heaven and home. If our deficiencies aren’t apparent now, they will become apparent as time passes. We accept one another, but we are painfully aware of the limitations that mark those with whom we associate. This tendency for people to focus on obvious deficits characterizing others is not something that only became apparent in these latter days.

Those with physical limitations, and especially those suffering emotional deficits, were ostracized during the days when Jesus walked the dusty trails of Judea. It hasn’t been all that many years past that the same attitudes expressed in Jesus’ day were prevalent throughout society. I suspect that most of those biases continue to this day—we just don’t speak of them. Perhaps society is more polite than at earlier times, though I suspect that we are more cowardly, less willing to be confrontational. Society frowns on honesty, preferring to hide behind euphemisms to mask prejudices. All the high-minded silence that marks contemporary society hides some rather ugly biases—biases that spontaneously erupt from time-to-time.

I could have chosen to speak of any number of handicapped people Jesus met, people who had been excluded from society because no one knew quite what to do with them. And yet, Jesus chose to touch a leper, to take time to question a distraught father, to allow Himself to be touched by a woman who was unclean because of her bloody discharge. Those whom society excluded were welcomed by the Master. Jesus made room for misfits. And what He did in that day, He does in this day. That is excellent news, because if your life is less than perfect, if you struggle to meet with the expectations of the culture in which we live, if you know that you can never fulfil the ideal of society, you need to know that Jesus makes room for misfits.

It is always startling, though also comforting, to see the way in which the Master interacted with those whom society deemed misfits. He allowed an unclean women to touch his clothing, something that simply wasn’t done in that day. He did not rebuke a prostitute who wetted his feet with her tears and then wiped them dry with her hair. His failure to shove her away scandalized his Pharisee hosts and assembled guests. He touched lepers, healing them instead of insisting that they stay two meters away from him as though they were infected with COVID-19. He touched dead bodies when such action would make Him ceremonially unclean. Jesus was prepared to touch contaminated people, people sullied and soiled by life.

I’m speaking today to people who not only suffer deficits, but people who are painfully aware of their deficits. Because you know the pain that accompanies your limitations, you may wonder sometimes how God could love you. You may even question whether God could ever use you! Whatever deficit or limitation you have, or imagine you have, you need to know the Jesus makes room for misfits. What others think of you does not determine Jesus’ acceptance of you. Our Lord promises, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” [MATTHEW 11:28-29]. All who are willing are invited to come. At issue is not one’s suitability for Christ’s love, but their willingness to come.

Again, we witness Jesus saying, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” [JOHN 6:37]. Jesus is pledged on His sacred honour never to cast out any who come to Him. Now, that is real comfort, and it is not dependent upon whether one is suitable for coming to the Master.

You may recall the charge made against the Saviour, a charge which exalted him in the eyes of those who were misfits in society. In Luke’s Gospel we read, “The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them’” [LUKE 15:1-2]. I’m glad that Jesus receives sinners, and I’m glad He deigns interact with them. I’m a sinner, and I need a Saviour who will receive me, a Saviour who will share with me. And that Saviour is Jesus, the Son of God.

LIVING ON THE FRINGES OF SOCIETY — “[Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him” [MARK 7:31-32].

The people living in Judea and surrounding environs knew there was something marvellous about this Jesus of Nazareth. He had a gracious message bringing hope to many. He had done wonderful things; it wasn’t even necessary for Him to lay His hands on the sick in order to heal. We read of an incident when Jesus was dealing with a ruler who was grieving at the sudden death of his daughter. Look at the incident, focusing especially on a woman who crept near to touch the fringe of Jesus’ garment. “Behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.’ And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.’ Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well” [MATTHEW 9:18-22].

Here is an incident demonstrating the capacity of Jesus to deal with multiple griefs simultaneously. Some weeks past, on a forum I frequent, a man posted a plea for understanding. His son, a fine young man with everything to gain and a wonderful future stretching out before him, took his life. The combination of stress imposed as result of governmental restrictions during the COVID-19 lockdowns superimposed on a failed relationship with a young woman, compounded by the pressure of educational demands during the pandemic panic became too much. The young man surrendered to the darkness that welled up and thought there was no end to his pain. There are few pains more dreadful to a parent than the death of a child; and now, this father has to grapple with the loss of his son. He’ll never hear his voice again. He will spend the remainder of his life questioning if there was anything he could have done.

In the pericope I have just read, we meet a father who is grieving because his daughter has just died. And when he pleads with Jesus to come, the Master quickly agrees to accompany this father. However, even as Jesus begins the trek to the father’s house, a desperate woman approaches Jesus from behind. She is every bit as desperate as this father, only her desperation arises from another source. Her pain is a lingering sense of exclusion because she is ceremonially unclean. She has had a constant flow of blood that excludes her from worship at the Temple and keeps her from interacting with other members of society.

This was the situation as delivered in the Law of Moses. “If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness. As in the days of her impurity, she shall be unclean. Every bed on which she lies, all the days of her discharge, shall be to her as the bed of her impurity. And everything on which she sits shall be unclean, as in the uncleanness of her menstrual impurity. And whoever touches these things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening” [LEVITICUS 15:25-27]. Her very presence was seen as a source of contamination. People could not sit where she had sat. Her bed and the very covers that were on the bed would be unclean—no one could touch them. Her presence was an inconvenience to everyone, and she would be excluded from even being in the presence of her own family! Talk about living on the fringes of society! This woman lived on the fringe, barely acknowledged as valuable to society.

This account is expanded as Luke relates the incident. There, we read, “As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, ‘Who was it that touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.’ And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace’” [LUKE 8:42-48].

Even as Jesus was on His way to respond to one painful cry wrenched from a grieving father’s heart, He was surreptitiously approached by another individual who was an outcast of society. As he went to raise a child from the dead, a woman who was forced by her condition to live on the fringe of society sought to be healed so she could again be part of society. What is important for us to note is that Jesus did not upbraid this woman for attempting to approach Him without His knowledge, nor did He ignore her need. The Master recognised her need, confronted her where she was and addressed the need that was excluding her from society.

I don’t deny that there is pain—both physical and psychological—when someone suffers with a physical condition that limits their abilities. It is immaterial how the limitation or how the particular deficit is described, suffering defines that life. Those who have diminished vision are restricted in what might otherwise be accomplished. People who have impaired hearing miss so much that others of us take for granted. We can laugh about some of the missed conversations, but there is nothing funny about this deficit. Withered hands and crippled legs, twisted backs and constant pain are all conditions that drain energy and leave the one so afflicted with unfulfilled dreams. And there is nothing funny about the pain some of us experience, nothing funny about the loss of freedom such crippling pain brings. However, I wonder if the emotional pain is even greater than any physical pain experienced as result of the deficit.

When I was but a little lad, my dad, a Kansas blacksmith, would frequently recite poetry to my brother and me as we three huddled around a Warm Morning coal stove on winter evenings. One poem by father recited during those winter evenings has stuck with me through the years; and I find myself frequently reciting this poem in my mind. Each recitation reminds me of the universal longing for a youth that can never be recaptured. At such times, I think of my godly daddy. What memories the poem conjures up in my mind.

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,

Make me a child again just for tonight!

Mother, come back from the echoless shore,

Take me again to your heart as of yore;

Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,

Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair;

Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;—

Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!

I am so weary of toil and of tears,—

Toil without recompense, tears all in vain—

Take them, and give me my childhood again!

I have grown weary of dust and decay,—

Weary of flinging my soul-wealth away;

Weary of sowing for others to reap;

Rock me to sleep, mother,—rock me to sleep! [2]

This poem perfectly captures the weariness that attends our lives as we push back against the limitations that define the boundaries of our lives. Each of us has, or perhaps we now have, moments when we long for a youth that can never be recaptured.

You imagine you’re just having fun when you mock the weight of a young girl who is struggling with her self-image. Few of us can imagine the pain inflicted on that young woman by what she sees as cruel taunts. It is bad enough when the ridicule comes from her peers; the pain is well-nigh unbearable when that pain is inflicted by well-meaning family members.

Some think that it is helpful to rag on the young man who is cerebral and focused on the gentle aspects of living. I recall a pastor friend who told of his son’s compassion when he saw a ground squirrel that had died. The young man, not yet in his teens, picked up the lifeless creature, held it in his hands and marvelled at how delicate it seemed, tears spilled down his cheeks all the while. The young man was laughed at for not being “tough enough.” Those who have never been on the receiving end of such laughter, such mockery, cannot imagine how each laugh slices through the psyche as though they were cut by a knife.

The individual whose face is marred, perhaps the result of scarring from acne, or perhaps disfiguration from some other condition or injury may often be ridiculed, mocked and laughed at. Those mocking the one so cruelly injured never think of the lifelong injury they are inflicting. That individual who has been ridiculed may well spend a lifetime overcoming deep scars inflicted by callous remarks inflicted on the heart.

Some struggle to speak freely—perhaps they stutter, or perhaps they are slow and thoughtful before they speak. Consequently, it is distressingly easy for others to mercilessly tease them because their speech is not as fluid as some think it should be. Isn’t it interesting that Albert Einstein was thought to be mentally dull as a child. However, it wasn’t that he couldn’t speak, he appears to have been withdrawn from the world, he was apparently exceptionally thoughtful, even as a child. Consequently, he was withdrawn from what we might think of as normal discourse. Obviously, he was anything but learning disabled. Ridicule and mockery of a child such as this would only drive that child farther from interaction with the world.

A couple of years past, Lynda and I were visiting in Kansas. On the first Sunday in the state, we attended the church Lynda had attended in her youth. Seated before us was a woman whom I suspected I had known as a boy. One of the first things that caused me to take notice of her was the fact that she was crippled. Her gait reminded me of a young girl who had been stricken with polio and who walked with that precise gait. As I observed her, I could see, even with the passage of over five decades, that this was likely the girl I had known during my school days. After the service, I asked if she was April.

When she acknowledged that she was the woman whom I thought she must be, I seized the opportunity to say what I hadn’t said so many years ago. April and a very studious young man who lived near her, had always come to school with a Bible among their school books. These two individuals were gentle and considerate. They reflected the grace and joy one would expect to be found in a redeemed soul. As result of their gentleness, they were not welcomed by the “in crowd,” they were mocked, and not always silently, behind their backs. However, here I was five decades later in the presence of that young girl.

When I asked her what she was doing, she told me that she was a Wycliffe missionary. She was home for a brief time to visit her mother. As we talked, I said, “April, I never told you what an impression you made on my young life when we were in high school. I admired your courage and your commitment. I was secretly thrilled that you refused to yield to the pressures of the day. I did not become a Christian because of your witness, but your witness did not allow me to ignore the claims of Christ. Thank you for standing firm and always walking in the grace of the Lord.” Handicapped? Oh, no! This gracious woman was an instrument of God’s grace. We just couldn’t see what God was doing through her in those earlier days; but I never forgot her determined walk with the Saviour. Her life was one more tool employed by the Spirit of God as He crowded me toward the Master.

It is difficult to imagine the struggles faced when one was deaf in that ancient day; and if the deafness was compounded by a speech impediment, it would be almost impossible to communicate. Perhaps he had been deaf since childhood and thus didn’t know how to make the appropriate sounds for speech. Perhaps he had some other speech deficit that resulted from an injury or a birth defect. Whatever the source, he was able to speak only with difficulty, which must surely have frustrated him and frustrated those who wanted to understand what he said. There was no such thing as a standardised sign language in that ancient day; the man would be forced to make gestures hoping that those to whom he attempted to communicate were willing to play this strange game of charades.

Fortunately, some compassionate people knew this man; they recognised the struggles he faced and they had heard of Jesus. Somehow, these kind people determined that they would bring this man to Jesus. Perhaps this prophet from Galilee would be able to do something to make life more tolerable for the deaf man who had such difficulty speaking.

COMPASSION FOR THOSE LIVING ON THE EDGE OF SOCIETY — “Taking him aside from the crowd privately, [Jesus] put his fingers into [the deaf man’s] ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly” [MARK 7:33-35].

Jesus healed this unfortunate man; but it is the opening words of this pericope that capture my attention. The incident is framed by these opening words, “Taking him aside from the crowd privately…” As Peter related the incident to Mark, it was the fact that Jesus shielded the man from the intrusion of the multitude that had followed the Master that seemed to loom large in the Big Fisherman’s memory. Jesus was about to do something phenomenal, and He carefully shielded this man from the prying eyes of the crowd.

Did the disciples shield Jesus from the gaze of the crowd? And if they shielded this man as he was healed, did they do so without being asked; or did Jesus ask the disciples to give Him a little space? Whether the disciples shielded Jesus as He worked or not, what is important for us to see is that Jesus had no wish to expose this unfortunate man to being reduced to a mere spectacle for the entertainment of the crowd. Should the man voluntarily declare himself to have been healed, that was on him; it would not be a concern for the Master. Consequently, we know that this man did out himself after he was healed. However, in this act of taking the man aside privately, it would appear as if Jesus was shielding him from the intrusive gaze of the crowd.

The treatment Jesus chose certainly does not fit the standard of care for modern medicine. Neither did it meet the standard of care for that ancient day. However, as was always true for Jesus, He tailored the cure to the individual. Have you ever thought about the variety of ways in which Jesus healed? Had all those who lived on the edge of society met together to discuss what happened to them, how would the conversation go?

Other people who had been delivered from the silence imposed by ears that were deafened could speak of Jesus delivering them from a demon that had robbed them of the ability to hear. When the demon was cast out, they were able to hear [e.g. MARK 9:15-27]. And their hearing was perfect! No hearing aids were required—not even an ear trumpet! However, the man in our text was able to hear after Jesus had put His fingers into the man’s ears. And he was able to speak after Jesus spit on His finger and touched the man’s tongue. There was no one method that Jesus used. Rather, Jesus treated each one needing deliverance as an individual.

Think of the conversation that might have taken place had a number of those whom Jesus healed of their blindness gathered to discuss what happened. Among those present are two men who were once blind. As the conversation turns to Jesus giving sight to the blind, we hear these two men testify, “Jesus touched our eyes and said, ‘According to your faith be it done to you’” [see MATTHEW 9:27-30]. “So, when we had faith that He could heal, He spoke and we were able to see! There is power in His touch.”

Also present are two other men who had been blind. They, also, had received their sight; and they heartily concur with this prior testimony, saying, “We don’t know about this faith business, but we are certain that if He touched your eyes, you would be able to see. Yes, that’s the way He did it, that’s how He healed—He touched the blinded eyes” [see MATTHEW 20:30-34].

“Are you quite certain about that?” asks another man who is present at this time. “I had a demon that blinded me,” he continues. “Jesus cast out the demon and I was able to see. So, He must cast out a demon in order to make one see again” [see MATTHEW 12:22].

Yet another man who had been healed of his blindness interjects, “No, you are all wrong! He had to spit on my blinded eyes. After He spit, I could see movement; but He still had to touch my eyes. Then I could see clearly” [see MARK 8:22-25]. That is how it must be done!

“Well,” begins another man, “I think He had to spit on the ground, making mud with which He anointed the eyes. Then, after groping my way to the designated fountain to wash off the mud, I could see” [see JOHN 9:1-7]. “The power was in the mud and in washing in the pool.”

There is another man present; his name is Bartimaeus. He listens as each of the men tell what Jesus had done before he rebukes them, “All He needed to do was speak and I could see” [see MARK 10:46-52]. “The power to heal is in His words. He didn’t need to touch or make mud or do anything! All He had to do was to speak!”

Even a casual review of the Gospels reveals that there was no one action to which Jesus restricted Himself whenever He healed those who came to Him. Each person presenting himself or herself to the Master when they were seeking help was treated as an individual. None were compelled to receive what every other person had received. Just as Jesus receives us as individuals and treats us with what is necessary in this day, so He healed the blind, the deaf, the mute and those so hideously injured in that day; He treated each one as the individual they were. The common factor in all the healings recorded in Scripture is the presence of Jesus. He demonstrated compassion in each instance, and His mercy delivered those who were in need.

Our God is compassionate; and He feels deeply the pain felt by those who live on the fringes of society. When the vulnerable, when those wracked with pain, when those who live in perpetual discouragement cry out for mercy, the Risen Saviour hears. Jesus is moved with compassion for each one who hurts. Matthew writes, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” [MATTHEW 9:36]. When two blind men cried out for mercy, we are told that Jesus was moved with pity, and He healed them [see MATTHEW 20:30-34]. A leper, pleading with Jesus to be cleansed, witnessed the Master as He was moved with pity. And stretching out His hand, Jesus touched him and delivered the man from his uncleanness [see MARK 1:40-42].

I can imagine few conditions to be more detrimental to one’s self-image than forced sterilization. Whether it would be an ovariectomy or a hysterectomy performed upon a young woman against her will, or whether it would be castration of a young man, it is difficult to imagine that such brutal injuries would not leave the one thus humiliated and thus injured with a lasting scar not only on the body, but with a vicious scar marring the psyche. Interestingly, the LORD speaks to just such demeaning injury in order to speak of His love for the outcast when He speaks through Isaiah. God’s great compassion is displayed for broken humanity when He says,

“Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say,

‘The LORD will surely separate me from his people;’

and let not the eunuch say,

‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’

For thus says the LORD:

‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,

who choose the things that please me

and hold fast my covenant,

I will give in my house and within my walls

a monument and a name

better than sons and daughters;

I will give them an everlasting name

that shall not be cut off.’”

[ISAIAH 56:3-5]

Perhaps the eunuch sees himself as less than a man, as someone who has no worth or value; it would seem natural that one so injured by such cruelty would think in this manner. However, God says anyone so injured and so humiliated by human cruelty can be considered whole in the Lord—the eunuch can be made whole. When anyone who has been marginalised, or anyone who has been disowned by the society in which they reside, looks to the LORD, keeping God’s commandments, the LORD is pledged on His sacred honour to do what could not otherwise be done. In short, God promises that He will make a place for those whom the world has relegated to the sidelines. If this is the case in such a grossly egregious situation, then doesn’t it follow that He will make a place for anyone whom the world treats as a misfit?

Christ Jesus, the Risen Lord of Glory, receives all who come to Him, as all are invited, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [MATTHEW 11:28], is the message given by the Saviour. And that message is meant for you. If you have been marginalised by the world to think of yourself to be a misfit, one who has never found your place in this world, this invitation is for you. Long years past, the great theologian Augustine wrote, “Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee.” [3] The distress of your soul, the emptiness of your heart, is know by the Saviour. And He has already prepared a position of acceptance and honour for you in His Kingdom.

It does not matter how the world views you or what worth the world ascribes to you, in the eyes of the Saviour you are of infinite worth. You are valuable beyond imagination. We hear the Word of God affirm, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” [JOHN 3:16]. The Son of God demonstrated just how valuable you are to Him when He gave Himself in your place.

FOCUSING ON THE SECONDARY — “Jesus charged [the deaf man together with those who brought him to Jesus] to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak’” [MARK 7:36-37]. We might excuse those whom Jesus healed for trumpeting abroad the good work that the Master had performed. After all, they had received mercy! And not just any mercy, but a mercy that removed the stigma of exclusion from society. And those who witnessed God’s goodness would be almost incapable of remaining silent. This would be especially true for the families who received their loved ones as people who were healed and fully restored in every sense. They were receiving loved ones who were now permitted to be fully integrated into society, taking their place that had been vacated before. We find ourselves wanting to shout with these families, “He has done all things well!”

Perhaps we might question why Jesus would charge those healed to be silent. The text is explicit in informing us that Jesus repeatedly charged them not to tell that He had performed this miracle. This is not the only time that Jesus ordered someone whom He had healed to be quiet about what had happened, but it is the first time Jesus commanded a Gentile to be quiet. You may recall that Mark tells us of a leper who was healed, a Jewish man; and when Jesus healed the man, the Master commanded this man, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them” [MARK 1:44]. Jesus’ charge was ignored by this Jewish man just as His charge among the Gentiles in our text was ignored.

Perhaps we can rationalise the response of the Jewish leper that was healed by remembering that the Jewish religious leaders were seeking to kill Jesus. By making it known where He was and what He was doing, Jesus jeopardised the ministry He came to perform—the ministry of preaching the Good News to lost people! When Jesus was endangered, His disciples would be placed in danger—and the Holy Spirit had not yet been given. These disciples would have no divine resource on which to call until after the Spirit of God was given. It is a reminder that you and I have no spiritual strength except for the Spirit of God living in us!

There is a hint, however, of what is happening in this account of the healing of this Jewish leper that sheds some light on Jesus’ urgent command not to tell what He had done in the region of the Decapolis. Jesus appears to know that should it become common knowledge that He has performed this miracle, the resulting interest will preclude the ministry He came to perform. Mark opens his Gospel with the information that what he is writing is “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” [MARK 1:1]. Mark declares that this account is the “Good News” of Jesus Christ.

Soon after this, Mark writes, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’” [MARK 1:14b-15]. Jesus is a healer, without question, but His emphasis is calling out those who will be saved. Thus, His ministry from earliest days was proclaiming the Gospel of God. Anything that would detract from this ministry of proclamation would be a detriment to the work which Jesus came to perform.

In what arguably would have been one of His earliest messages, we read that Jesus “came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

and recovering of sight to the blind,

to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

“And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’” [LUKE 4:16-21].

You will recall that as He was affirming the salvation of Zacchaeus, the Lord pointed again to His own purpose which was to announcement Good News to the poor. Jesus testified, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” [LUKE 19:10].

The point to be taken by each reader of the Gospel accounts is that Jesus was focused on fulfilling the work the Father assigned. Jesus would not be dissuaded from fulfilling the Father’s will. Even though He knew the cost of moving deliberately toward this conclusion, we read, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” [LUKE 9:51]. Unlike many of us who name the Name of Christ the Lord, our Saviour lived in the shadow of the cross, and nothing could be permitted to turn Him aside from offering His life as a sacrifice on that terrible tree.

Returning to our text, note that Jesus is in the region of the Decapolis; He is in a Gentile area where the Jewish religious leaders would have no presence and no particular interest. Whatever Jesus did in that area would be of no particular concern to the religious leaders. There is something that will raise a question in the mind of a Bible reader. Earlier, Jesus had delivered a demonised man in this same region. When that man attempted to follow Jesus, the Saviour commanded him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” [MARK 5:19].

Now, when a man is healed, a man living in the same region, the Saviour charges all those who witnessed what had been done to tell no one. There is one major difference that gives us insight into what is going on. In the case of the demonised man, Jesus charged him to tell everyone—he would serve as the first missionary to the region of the Decapolis. The man healed in our text would generate enthusiastic crowds, but they would not be interested in hearing of salvation—they would be seeking physical deliverance! Because of this, unwieldy crowds would hinder Jesus’ deliberate movement toward the cross.

Even the disciples would be warned against speaking at this time. Mark writes in the next chapter, “Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they told him, ‘John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.’ And he asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” [MARK 8:27-31].

A message focused only on Jesus’ power to heal is incomplete, inadequate, insufficient. The full message must always include His death and resurrection and the call to believe. The message of Christ must include the testimony that, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” [1 CORINTHIANS 15:3-4].

If we have compassion for those living on the edges of society, we will declare the message of life to them. Our first priority will be to invite them to life in the Beloved Son of God. We will boldly condemn sin which binds them and we will condemn those sinful people who would keep them in bondage to fear. We will preach peace in Christ, urging those who are misfits in this world to find wholeness in the Risen Son of God.

I cannot conclude this message without asking, have you believed Him? Have you received His peace which is yours when you confess Him as Master over your life? Have you been born from above and into the Family of God? Do you know that you are accepted in Christ the Lord? If not, why not? What could possibly keep you from the life that He offers.

And if you know Him, are you reaching out to receive those who are spurned by society, those who feel they have no place in this present world. Let this message be God’s encouragement to take up the ministry which Jesus began, the ministry of telling others of His great salvation. Tell another of Christ. Do so, even today. And believe Him now. Amen.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] Elizabeth Akers Allen, “Rock Me to Sleep,” (poem), in Thomas R. Lounsbury (ed.), Yale Book of American Verse, 1912

[3] Saint Augustine Bishop of Hippo, The Confessions of St. Augustine, trans. E. B. Pusey (: Logos Research Systems, Inc. Oak Harbor, WA 1996)