Have you ever been desperate? Are you desperate now? I gotta tell you, the world looks like a pretty desperate place. An absolutely brutal campaign season, people searching for something solid to hang on to in a tumultuous society, everyone yelling and arguing with each other seemingly more than ever before, and that’s just our country which in reality boasts the most blessed populace in the history of the world! Imagine the desperation in many parts of the world where they aren’t concerned with democrat and republican but with food, water, shelter, and basic safety. What if I told you about a situation where desperation is a good thing?
In Mark’s gospel, very early in Jesus’ ministry, we read that “when the great crowd [that was following Jesus] heard all that he was doing, they came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him.” Mark 3:8-10. I’ve always pictured these large crowds following Jesus, but in my mind the crowd was made up of fairly ordinary people. People that I would be comfortable around. But that’s not the people that made up this crowd that threatened to crush Jesus.
This crowd was made up of the sick and diseased. The unclean. The people you would see and avoid like the plague (because they HAD the plague!) Since Jesus had healed all of the sick that he had touched, everybody with a sickness or disease was trying to get close enough for a touch of their own so that they could be made well. They were desperate to get close to Jesus. What a sight this had to be! Even Jesus’ own family tried to stop it because it seemed like Jesus was out of his mind. Mark 3:21.
Meanwhile, the people who were the high ranking in society or leading religious scholars stood back a ways and observed what was going on. They weren’t about to wade into the mob of disease to get to Jesus. Instead, they were content to stand safely at a distance and find fault with so much of what Jesus did. “Who does he think he is to tell someone their sins are forgiven? (Mark 2:7) Why is he eating with these tax collectors and sinners? (2:16) Why are his disciples not fasting? (2:18) Why are his disciples picking grain on the Sabbath? (2:24) How dare he heal a man’s hand on the Sabbath in the synagogue? (3:6)”
So which group of people do you fit in with? I was convicted when I read this that I am too often a part of that group that keeps a safe distance from Jesus. The group that finds fault with everything that’s going on. The group that thinks that they have everything that they need so there’s no reason to press in to grab hold of Jesus. Jesus says in this section that “those who are well have no need of a physician.” (2:17) If I’m honest, the reason I am standing at a safe distance is because I have tricked myself into thinking that I already have everything I need and that I am well enough just as I am.
I will press forward to get close to Jesus only when I realize the desperate need I have in my life that only he can heal. Jesus has saved me and healed me, but there is a still the need to get and stay close to him – to “touch the hem of his garment,” so to speak. The Psalmist expressed it like this in Psalm 42, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so pants my soul for you, my God.” Or as David says in Psalm 63, “My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
Are you keeping Jesus at a safe distance? Or are you desperate to get to Him?