There are a few individuals in my life who are fortunate enough to get preferential treatment. I’ll willingly do things for them that I might not for others. Often times my agreement is accompanied by a wry smile and a variation of “you’re lucky it’s you.” In an ideal world, though… I’d go the extra mile for everyone.
“And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.” (Luke 6:19)
The twelve disciples weren’t chosen at random, Jesus agonised over His selection. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that He retreated to the mountain to pray and then chose His disciples. Luke 6:13 doesn’t give us an exact figure of the number He had to whittle it down from, but clearly He put thought into who would ‘make the cut.’ This prayer session lasted all night. I dwell on this point because whilst prayer can leave you feeling refreshed, one can’t ignore the fact that Jesus would have been sleep deprived come sunrise. The experience, whilst spiritually refreshing, was also physically taxing.
Prayer prepares you for what lies ahead.
He then proceeds to come down from the mountain with His disciples in tow and preaches the Sermon on the Mount. Both Matthew and Luke highlight that a ‘great multitude’ were present and their aim was “to hear Him and be healed of their diseases.” Hearing they could do from a distance, but in order to experience healing, they were convinced they had to touch Him. It’s interesting that the healing takes place before the preaching, almost as if He wanted them to listen ‘comfortably.’ Whilst He was eager to cater to their spiritual needs, He recognised the importance of meeting their physical and emotional needs first.
The aspect of this story that stood out to me the most was Jesus’ compassion as evidenced in today’s key text. Let’s dwell on the word ‘touch.’ You see, if I’d just prayed all night and I was gearing up to deliver an important message, the last thing I’d want is to be mobbed by a whole heap of people. Let’s not forget that there was one of Jesus versus a multitude of them. I’m sure at any one time He probably had tens of people fighting to ‘get a piece of Him’ (not all of whom would have been gentle!). As I reflected on how both parties might have found the experience, I made the following notes in my journal:
- Jesus – annoying, irritating, uncomfortable, tiring, painful, frustrating, exhausting, never-ending, distracting
- Multitude – scary, life changing, fleeting, uncomfortable, sought after
Humility is experiencing momentary discomfort on behalf of those who seek permanent comfort.
The curious thing is that He could have accomplished this healing through impersonal means e.g. clicking His fingers or even speaking it into existence. It didn’t need to be touchy-feely. Nevertheless, He inconvenienced Himself knowing that they would appreciate a more personal experience. Compassion was a core part of Jesus’ ministry, but one that the disciples often struggled to understand. For example, they felt that identifying the woman who had touched Him was insignificant (Luke 8:45-46), and allowing the children to come close to Him was unnecessary (Matthew 19:13-15). On both occasions Jesus disagreed. It’s no surprise that Jesus died on Calvary because putting your needs first has always been, and will always be, His number one priority.
- Be kind – it’s easy to dismiss someone who is ‘bothering’ you with their request without taking into account what it took for them to ask you.
- Be considerate – healing wasn’t something the multitude could accomplish themselves so they were right to seize their opportunity with Jesus. But where possible, before reaching out, first think about what you can do to help yourself.
- Don’t forget to smile – there’s no point saying ‘yes’ only to make someone feel guilty for asking.
People may sometimes ask you to do something you’re not in the mood for, or maybe just can’t be bothered with. Let this remind you of how much of a difference inconveniencing yourself can make in someone else’s life.