THE BEGINNING OF THE CROWDS
When evening had come and when the sun had set, they kept bringing to him all those who were ill and demon-possessed. The whole city had crowded together to the door; and he healed many who were ill with various diseases and cast out many demons; and he forbade the demons to speak because they knew him.
The things that Jesus had done in Capernaum could not be concealed. The emergence of so great a new power and authority was not something which could be kept secret. So the evening found Peter’s house besieged with crowds seeking Jesus’ healing touch. They waited until evening because the law forbade the carrying of any burden through a town on the Sabbath day (compare Jer.17:24). That would have been to work and work was forbidden. They had, of course, no clocks or watches in those days; the Sabbath ran from 6 p.m. to 6 p.m.; and the law was that the Sabbath was ended and the day had finished when three stars came out in the sky. So the people of Capernaum waited until the sun had set and the stars were out and then they came, carrying their sick, to Jesus; and he healed them.
Three times we have seen Jesus healing people. First he healed in the synagogue; second, he healed in the house of his friends; and now he healed in the street. Jesus recognized the claim of everyone. It was said of Dr. Johnson that to be in misfortune was to be assured of his friendship and support. Wherever there was trouble Jesus was ready to use his power. He selected neither the place nor the person; he realized the universal claim of human need.
The people flocked to Jesus because they recognized in him a man who could do things. There were plenty who could talk and expound and lecture and preach; but here was one who dealt not only in words but also in actions. It has been said that “if a man can make a better mousetrap than his neighbours, the public will beat a path to his house even if he lives in the middle of a wood.” The person people want is the effective person. Jesus could, and can, produce results.
But there is the beginning of tragedy here. The crowds came, but they came because they wanted something out of Jesus. They did not come because they loved him; they did not come because they had caught a glimpse of some new vision; in the last analysis they wanted to use him. That is what nearly everyone wants to do with God and his Son. For one prayer that goes up to God in days of prosperity ten thousand go up in time of adversity. Many a man who has never prayed when the sun was shining begins to pray when the cold winds come.
Someone has said that many people regard religion as belonging “to the ambulance corps and not to the firing-line of life.” Religion to them is a crisis affair. It is only when they have got life into a mess, or when life deals them some knock-out blow that they begin to remember God. We must all go to Jesus for he alone can give us the things we need for life; but if that going and these gifts do not produce in us an answering love and gratitude there is something tragically wrong. God is not someone to be used in the day of misfortune; he is someone to be loved and remembered every day of our lives.
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