I’ve been rereading devotionals I wrote before the stroke. After talking about healing the deaf man in the Decapolis, I considered the drawbacks to drawing large crowds while trying to help people.
Mark 8:1-10 ANOTHER HUNGRY CROWD
Jesus specifically asked the deaf man and others he encountered in the Decapolis territory not to go talking about their healings. They did anyway. Jesus was soon facing huge crowds of people again, all eager to hear what this itinerant prophet had to say.
And, once again, the oversized crowd created a problem by its very size. No one had planned for it. The people themselves did not have food with them. Now, in addition to their other needs, it became necessary to find a solution to this problem, too. [This was the occasion for the episode of feeding the 4000.] …The meal also marked the end of the work there. Jesus dismissed the people and got back in the boat to move along.
In his gospel account, John recalls Jesus rebuking some of the followers for only hanging around to get more free food. This is a hint of why Jesus was probably not so interested in having huge crowds keep bunching up around him. The necessity to produce miracle meals tended to stir up interest rooted only in their temporal needs. Jesus wanted his teaching to reach deeper hungers….
Reflect: What other obstacles might you expect in trying to speak to extremely large crowds of people? Noise? Crowd movement and distraction? Sanitation? Impersonal distance?
Prayer: “Lord Jesus, let me be content with one-on-one conversation with those you put in my path today.”
Once again I had the jarring experience of being slapped in the face by what I had written and intended for others. I spent many years behind radio microphones, speaking sometimes to audiences around the world. Later, as a deacon in a local church, I had opportunities to preach to crowds of hundreds of people.
The stroke severely damaged my ability to speak at all (or swallow food). It was an end of a season of life and ministry I had enjoyed gratefully. Since then, my audience consists of visitors who come one or two at a time to my house. And mostly I listen to them (grateful for their company). I shake my head in wonder at reading the prayer I wrote years ago: “Lord Jesus, let me be content with one-on-one conversation with those you put in my path today.”
The reason I am writing any of this now is a story my sister-in-law told me a couple of days ago.
Background: Renee is a Nurse Practitioner. She has a place in town but, for the past year, she has been staying with her brother, Brucie, in Memphis. She went there to help care for Brucie’s wife who developed a brain tumor and, in a matter of weeks, died last spring. Then Renee stayed on to help care for Brucie’s mother-in-law, Shirley. Shirley had stayed in Brucie and her daughter Joanne’s home for nearly 20 years. She was in poor health, needed oxygen constantly, and lately had begun exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s.
Last Saturday, Shirley was able to join them at the kitchen table for breakfast. Brucie had errands to run and, after a time, left Renee and Shirley at the table. Renee had work to do, too, but sensed this was a morning to linger and talk with Shirley for as long as she wanted. Shirley’s thoughts were wandering back to her school days, one of the memories she still had. Renee sat there and listened.
On Monday, Renee drove down to Lakeland, planning to meet a friend here. Brucie called that evening to report that Shirley had fallen to the floor in her bedroom. An ambulance had come to carry her to the hospital. Shirley’s only son was flying down the next day. He arrived in time to see his mother one last time before she died late Wednesday night.
Renee told me the story of her last breakfast with Shirley when she came by our house Tuesday evening, before we knew what lay ahead. But the realization that, sometimes, it’s the one-on-one meetings that matter most, made the room very quiet for both of us.
I find myself thinking its a prayer worth repeating. “Lord Jesus, let me be content with one-on-one conversation with those you put in my path today.”