Summary: Do the least-likely and least-lovely around me know that they can come and touch the hem of my Savior’s garment and receive the most magnificent of blessings? Can I keep Him to myself? How do I learn to step out and truly be His hands and voice and heart
The Hem Of His Garment
The portion of the Pacific Northwest where we are right now is an idyllic place to live. Surrounded by lush green forests teeming with wildlife and bounded by snow-capped mountains, the valley we live in is suffused with some of the richest soil in the world for growing almost every kind of non-tropical fruit, vegetable and other foliage in the world.
Our climate and our weather are ideal for growing peaches as large as grapefruits and sweet as you can imagine, strawberries larger than walnuts and as sweet and juicy as you could want, as well as apples and pears and other fruits and berries that are desired the world over for their appearance, their flavor and their high nutritional value.
Within minutes from here, a person can be walking along a trail in the woods, hiking a mountain path, or standing on the bank of a lake or a river. A journey of just a little longer can put a person on the sandy beaches of the ocean or the pollution-free air of a high dessert.
It is a wonderful blessing to live right where we are and it is an even greater blessing to be able to call this “home”. Wherever we go to visit, wherever we travel to, we can return to this oasis of beauty and bounty and find comfort and rest and pleasure.
When the disciples landed early that morning after their long night on the storm-tossed sea and their shocking encounter with Jesus walking on the water, they were exhausted. Physically, mentally and spiritually, they were in need of finding rest and a break from all the activity. Jesus had brought them to a place very much like where we are right at this moment.
Matthew 14:34 says, “When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret [geh NESS ah ret].”
Gennesaret was in the region belonging to the tribe of Naphtali and was only about one mile deep and three miles long along the shore of the Sea of Galilee that was also sometimes called the Lake of Gennesaret. This region has been known for millennia as a land that was exceeding fruitful, full of gardens and orchards. The fruit, the figs and the olives were said to be the sweetest, the largest and the best in every way.
It was a fruitful, peaceful land, surrounded by mountains and lapped at on one side by the waves of the life-sustaining Sea of Galilee. The disciples must have felt a great deal of relief reaching the beach there, especially after the night they had just had. I can hear their sighs of relief as they beach the boat and plop down on the sand. I can see several of them lying back and laying an arm across their eyes as they allow their muscles to let go of the tension of the night and its activities.
I have felt that way myself on many occasions, coming home here to this place and looking forward to the ease and comfort that are so much a part of every day life here. Have you also experienced that feeling when arriving home?
Imagine that you’re sitting down along the river with a picnic spread out on a blanket on the grass. The sun is shining, the breeze is very light, and you’re spending some very peaceful time with the people whom you enjoy the most in your life. You can feel the tensions of life ebbing away as the day unfolds. You feel your heart uplifted as you realize that the stresses and strains of the recent past are fading into the distance and you are in a place of peace and comfort. Got the picture?
Okay, now imagine that all of a sudden, a group of dirty homeless guys comes walking toward you, talking loudly and excitedly and pointing at the food you have spread out around you. What goes through your mind? What feelings start to rise up? How do you react?
Is your sense of peace and well-being shattered? Is your calm interrupted and thrown off kilter? Are you resentful of the intrusion and the disruption these people of suddenly caused?
You now have a picture of what the disciples get hit with when they reach this delightful country, so full of the promise of rest and peace and enjoyment. Instead of a haven from their troubles and a place for enjoying delightful things, they get hit with, “when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick (verse 35).”
Let’s look at that word translated “sick” for a moment. The word here is a different word than is used in Matthew 14:14: “When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.” The word “sick” in that verse simply means “infirm”. The word used in our passage today is a very concise, terse word that is translated as sick (8 times), diseased (2 times – Mark 1:32; 14:45), evil (2 – John 18:23; Acts 23:5 ), wrong (1 – James 4:3), cruelly (1 – Matthew 15:22), wretched or miserable (1 Matthew 21:41) and very ill (1 – Matthew 17:15).