“In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.’” - Mark 8:1-3
Jesus must have been one great teacher! As a minister’s wife, I hear complaints when a sermon runs longer than twenty minutes. No matter how inspiring or profound the message, people have limited attention spans and tend to get antsy. And yet, Jesus captivated a crowd of 4,000 for three solid days! They did not go home to their beds at night or even leave to find food at mealtime. Instead, they camped out on the ground, anxious to keep their spots and ensure they didn’t miss a thing. They were completely riveted by Jesus and his teachings. Why? Because his words offered them a new life and hope. They felt loved and valued in his presence, and so they longed to remain with him.
At this point, Jesus was still in the area of the Decapolis, so we must assume the crowd was largely composed of Gentiles. This audience did not know the Old Testament Scriptures or prophesies; they had never heard of God’s promised Messiah. They did not understand the nature of the Lord, his work in creation, or his plan for the redemption of his people. All they knew was there was something different about this man Jesus, something compelling and unnerving at the same time. In his presence, they experienced joy, peace, hope, conviction and compassion they had never known before. And they wanted more.
I first experienced the compelling nature of Jesus at a Christian camp the summer after fifth grade, and it changed my life forever. Though raised in the church, I was not interested in learning about or developing a relationship with the Lord. I was, however, excited about the many activities the camp offered. God, in his perfect providence, met me where I was. The counselors were committed Christians, kingdom builders who demonstrated their faith whether they were skeet shooting or singing hymns. Their love for and delight in the Lord was apparent in everything they did. They taught, nurtured, and encouraged me in my faith as never before. I did not know what made these people different, but I knew I wanted it! I gave my life to the Lord that summer and returned to the camp for the next fifteen years. Each time, Jesus used the experience to increase my spiritual hunger and my desire to live according to his will.
Have you experienced the compelling nature of Jesus? Have you basked in his amazing love, grace, joy, wisdom, and peace? Are you hungry for a fresh encounter with him? Jesus is as captivating and present today as he was back then, if we open our hearts to receive him.
Reflect and Respond:
Set aside some time to commune with Jesus and ask him to captivate your heart and mind. What would it mean for you to really savor his Word, his presence, and his power? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the Living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
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