Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. – Mark 6:45-56
Boy Scout Camp Lewallen is about 60 miles west of Cape Girardeau, Missouri – the town I grew up in. After receiving my first class badge as a Boy Scout, I was able to work on merit badges at that camp. For the canoeing badge I had to dump over the canoe, make a flotation device out of my shirt, right the canoe and regain entry to the canoe. All went well for the first part. The canoe dumped over easily enough.
When the time came for me to take off my shirt while in the water I experienced a moment of terror. My shirt got stuck over my face, and for a moment I could not breathe! I was a strong swimmer. That was not the problem. I could keep my head above water easily enough. But I panicked when I couldn’t get my shirt off for a few seconds. I was desperate. Thankfully adrenaline kicked in and I was able to get my shirt off. I was happy to fill my shirt with air and rest on it in the lake. I earned the badge.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. And although the people who came to Jesus on the other side of the lake were desperate their resort to desperate measures was less dramatic than my adrenaline-fueled terror. The scene here is nonetheless one of desperation.
People were deeply aware of their need and Jesus’ power and grace to help. So they came. Pallets, stretchers, crutches, canes, and friends no doubt brought them to Jesus whenever they learned he was near.
Our need for Jesus is no less real or desperate today than at that time. We have simply become more sophisticated. We have factored God out of the equation. We have numbed ourselves to our true need for God.
But these people recognize Jesus’ power and their need. And their desperation is a reminder of our need for God and his salvation. If we would but recognize it. Jesus’ mission is to bring people into God’s kingdom. And that kingdom is now on earth because Jesus is present. He heals diseases. He opens the eyes of the blind. He makes the lame to walk. All this to show the glorious blessings of God’s rule and reign over all things.
I’m not sure God wants us to live in a state of anxious desperation because of our need for him. But I am certain that he is close to those who are desperate for his help.